The Bubble Burst
A few years ago, I saw a short video called “Bubble Creek Canyon.” It was a parody, describing a fictitious planned community as “heathen-free,” where all the citizens and local businesses had “Christian” values and “Christian” branding. It was a scathing indictment of the so-called “bubble” of Christian community, where Christians avoid interactions with non-Christians, secular media, commerce, etc. It is still up on YouTube.
This parody stands in stark contrast to the 21st century reality we live in. If we lived in Bubble Creek, then we might have different laws. But we don’t. If we lived in Bubble Creek, we could maybe let our kids loose with their web browser. But we don’t. If we lived in Bubble Creek, the schools might have different curriculum. But we don’t.
There may have been a time when everyone you knew professed to be a Christian. But that is not likely a realistic expectation in nearly any part of the United States today. If America were ever a Christian Nation, it is certainly not one today. In 2016, when asked their religious affiliation, there were as many voters claiming “none” as claiming “Christian.”
How should we live and work in a post-Christendom community? Well, for much of church history, and in many nations today, that is how Christians have always lived. Christ’s call is the same: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness.” (Matt 6) “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” (Matt 28) Notice that it doesn’t say, “make the nations to look like His kingdom.” Only through Christ, in his return, will the Kingdom be established on earth.
God has one Law. The rules for us and how we respond to those violating God’s Law are different, depending on whether the violator claims Christ or not. When we point out sin to an unbeliever, it should be handled more akin to helping a sick person, than like a criminal. So, how are we to respond to those around us that do not profess to be Christians? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12a “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”
In other words, when it comes to our response to the sin of others, there is a call for different response to believers versus non-believers. And if the community around us is not entirely Christian, then we cannot simply apply the rules for Christians to the whole community. To do so, in the eyes of our non-believing neighbors, is more akin to an Islamic state’s fatwa.
A Personal Example
I have a gay co-worker who was explaining to me her view on some of the political movements spearheaded by Christians. To summarize, she said that passing some laws would not suddenly make her embrace Christian values. So, any laws that obstructed her from marrying would just be to potentially block her access to things like health care coverage and hospital visitation access. That doesn’t bring her to Christianity, it is “just being mean.” She clued me into the bumper stickers and t-shirts with “Mean People ____” (a word related to creating a partial vacuum). Those were aimed at people like us.
Our Call and Response
Jesus models what he expects in Mark 2 (also Luke 5). When asked about socializing with sinners and unsavory characters, he said,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
As I read this, I can just hear the compassion in Jesus’ voice. He was acting out of compassion, out of love, for the people he met. He was not a “clanging gong” (1 Cor 13) with a picket sign and a bullhorn. He “spoke the truth in love,” (Eph 4:15) not compromising a single letter, but meeting people, just as they are, one at a time, sharing the good news.
If you have been at First Free for any length of time, then you have probably met people who get a lot of practice at this sort of thing. We sometimes call them “overseas missionaries.” What would happen if each of us here in our own community adopted the same approach as our partners on other continents? Perhaps the work we do every day takes on new significance. Maybe our social circles start to look different. How much would change? What would be different? What would stay the same?
About the author
Chris Manrodt chairs First Free’s elder board, and is also a small group leader. He and his wife Lisa have three children. Chris leads a data analytics team for a medical device company. He studied Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University, and Management of Technology at the University of Minnesota. When not working or traveling with his family, he is usually hitting the weights or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.