Summary: How can believers demonstrate to nonbelievers that the message of the Christian faith is relevant?
In his book, Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths (Page 73), theologian Alister McGrath tells about his friend’s stamp collecting hobby. His friend, he says, “is perfectly capable of telling me everything I could possibly want to know about the watermarks of stamps issued during the reign of Queen Victoria by the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago. And while I have no doubt about the truth of what he is telling me, I cannot help but feel that it is an utter irrelevance to my life.”
Christianity strikes many unbelievers the same way, McGrath says. They simply see no need for a religion that is 2000 years old and, apparently, has had its day. How is it relevant to them?
But the struggle to find relevance in the Christian faith doesn’t belong to unbelievers alone. Many believers today, struggle with the challenge of proving the relevance of the Christian faith to an unbelieving world.
In an article written by Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin), the current pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, he makes this bservation: “Recently I was flipping through a couple of well known Christian magazines. I counted six full-page advertisements for upcoming conferences designed to help churches adapt in order to meet modern needs - ‘new ways for new days.’ They emphasized improved techniques, programs, methods, and advertising strategies.”
He quotes Os Guinness, who says, “‘The ultimate factor in the church’s engagement with society is the church’s engagement with God,’ not the church’s engagement with the latest intellectual or corporate fashion.” And then he makes this point: “The relevance of the church doesn’t depend on its ability to identify the latest cultural trends and imitate them. Our greatest need as twenty-first-century churches is not structural but spiritual.”
Now, while I believe that in reaching unbelievers for Christ, we should follow the admonition of Paul to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means (we) might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), we must always remember that while our methods might change with changing times, our message must never change. It is not any particular method that makes a difference in a person’s life, but as Paul tells us in Romans 1:16, it is the message of the Good News that “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
We must relate to people using a variety of methods to share with them the relevant message of the Good News. Which is that God, in Christ, came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. He made Himself known to us and paid the price of sin for us. He now invites us to know Him, to follow Him and to share eternity with Him.
Many have concluded Christianity is just another religion because many believers take a religious approach to living the Christian life - focusing on keeping rules and regulations rather than cultivating a growing love relationship with God. It makes sense, then, that the key to the world recognizing the relevance of Christianity requires that believers return to a proper focus on loving God and loving others.
1. The way of relevance - vs. 8-10
Paul echoes what Jesus taught in the Great Commandment.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
The priority of every believer is to grow in our love relationship with God. The end result will be that we will love others as we should.
Such a life will surpass the requirements of the law. The reason is that love always goes the second mile. Instead of stopping at not committing adultery, a life lived in love will surpass the requirements of the law by treasuring one’s spouse. Instead of stopping at not committing murder, we treasure life. Instead of stopping at not stealing, we develop a life of generosity. Instead of stopping at not coveting our neighbor’s things, we will take steps to bless and enrich their lives.
“Not many go the extra mile . . . so there’s not much traffic.” - Roger Staubach
The Romans, under the subjugation of a military machine and a cruel, relentless emperor, found themselves in a culture that was lacking in love. And Corinth, the city from which Paul wrote the letter, with its immoral sexual practices, also needed to learn the gift of love. Love is also what is needed in Portales, New Mexico, across the country, and around the world. The greatest need of men anywhere today is to learn about the love of God. Love makes a difference.