Wednesday, April 2, 2014

“Roaring from the Rooftops” vs Living like Leaven

Many Christians, working in all areas of life, have wondered; what does it look like to be a witness these days? Do we need to be vocal about our beliefs at all times? Mark 16:15 says “preach the gospel to every creature”... does that mean that some aspect of the gospel has to occupy every conversation that we have? Matthew 10:27 says to “shout from the rooftops”. Do we need to take that literally every chance we get?

Christians creating art and working in various creative and media related industries have been thinking through questions like this for a very long time. Some with a degree of success, and others with somewhat less...

It's quite normal to wrestle with issues like this. In fact, a part of the beauty of our faith, is the paradoxes that it can present. We are supposed to “fear God”, and yet He is a God of overtly extravagant, over-the-top love? When they are explored properly and prayerfully, topics like these fit together like a hand in a glove. But you do need to explore the Word of God for yourself, (ask the Holy Spirit for help with this), and you need to continually seek God regarding how to apply it to your own situation.

An over-arching theme of the Bible, is summed up in Matthew 28:18-20, in what is often called the “Great Commission”.

Let's zero in on verse 19, which says

“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations...”

This talks about our responsibility to positively transform the very fabric and culture of our society. How do we “disciple nations”? By teaching them how to live. How do we do this? Well, it starts by connecting with people, and being in their world. We are able to positively “disciple” people, only when we are in their world. And if we aren't in the world... many people will remain lost, and without hope.

Jesus used some great analogies in his teaching, and here - true to form - he sums up our calling in just one verse:

Matthew 13:33

The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough.”

Yeast, or leaven as it is also called, in the Old Testament, represented sin*. There are plenty of places where we see this, and even Paul repeated the analogy a couple of times*. However, in this verse, Jesus flips the analogy on it's head. Just like earlier on when he told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth!”, here he's saying, “You are like leaven!” Our lives... the way we treat people, the way we interact, the way we love and raise our families, the way we live with integrity - it all subtly teaches others, showing that there is a better way to live. Oh, that we would see artists, entertainers and leaders, talk-show hosts and news-readers, people all over the media, become leaven in our world today! Oh, that we would read and absorb God's word to us, get to know Him, and have His love and presence permeating through us... That we would find community, and connection in the body of Christ, only to be “sent” out into the world, letting our lives be “leaven” in the communities around us!!!

I'm a believer in overtly preaching the gospel... But when and how often? If you're a rapper/singer/song-writer wanting to get your music “out there”, and you have the media asking you what you believe, should you take that as an opportunity to “witness” and share about Jesus? My answer to that is not necessarily! If you're in that situation, and you really felt to let it rip with the gospel... no worries.. I'll say “amen” when I watch your interview. But just remember that there were times when Jesus side-stepped big questions when he was in the spotlight. Why? Because the people asking him the questions were trying to pigeon-hole him. It clearly wasn't time for him to be “revealed” yet, and he would have lost some of his present influence prematurely. (See Matthew 21:23-27 for an example.)

I have a graphic-designer friend who is a fellow-follower of Jesus, and he shared with me a little while ago that he'd been working with a guy who's gay. His comment to me was that right now, “he probably doesn't want to know that I'm a Christian”. The best thing he can do is to work to the best of his ability, serve his needs, and show love and care for him. My friend loves to share about his faith and about Christ with people, and if the working relationship were to continue, I am sure he wouldn't rule that out in the future. When one-on-one with people, he has had, and will have many opportunities to share Jesus with people, and be like “leaven” in their lives.

Let's just imagine for a moment though, that he was interviewed publicly, to advertise his services as a graphic-designer. How should he respond if he is asked about his faith? Let's just say that the purpose of the interview is to create interest in his service, which would lead to individual client relationships. Is it relevant to bring up his faith and Christ in that context? You could argue that it's not. More than that, if he's labelled by his community as a “Christian graphic-designer”, would that be good or bad for his business? It would be bad for him, if he is wanting to connect with non-Christians. It would be detrimental to his ministry, if he's wanting to be “leaven”, and subtly influence non-believers through his work. Should my friend consider putting “Christian graphic-designer” on his business card? Don't get me started on that one...

Let me be clear, I am all for the bold proclamation of the gospel. We should all be ready to "give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (That's 1 Peter 3:15). And of course, the Apostle adds some important advice... "do this with gentleness and respect..."

For some of you, the conclusion is clear. Preaching at certain times, could limit our ability to be like “leaven” to those around us.

Be as “wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves”** (not the other way around).

And ultimately:
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Can you think of anyone, who is in the "spotlight" as such, that has a positive "leavening" effect on those around them as a follower of Christ?

Feel free to comment below.

*OT examples of leaven giving us a picture of sin: Exodus 12:14-20, Leviticus 10:12 NT: 1 Cor 5:6-8, Galatians 5:9
**Matthew 10:16

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