Are We Too Fashionable?

In the foreword of a recently released book, Tim Keller explains that Christians have generally taken four approaches to engaging with culture.

1. The world will burn anyway, so just change the world “one heart at a time” and be done with it.
2. The world has lost “moral absolutes,” therefore we need to take the culture back in politics and with morals.
3. The world thinks the church is irrelevant to its concerns, so we need to remove ourselves from our subculture and get involved in social justice issues.
4. The world needs to become like the church, so to do that, we need to be relevant with our sermons and worship and meet felt needs.

One of my first thoughts is that options 2-4 assume too much of me, and probably a good amount of American Christianity. I mean, why be that concerned about the world when I have all kinds of personal concerns – from financial stability to leisure to creature comforts – of my own? I wish I never thought that way, but I do plenty of the time. How about you?

The aforementioned book, Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian, goes on to describe how he suggests we think about interacting with our culture (“he” is Billy Graham’s grandson…and I have no idea how to say it either). I’m not finished yet, but a few quotes are worth mentioning here.

“Trying to be relevant and to meet felt needs only turns the church into another consumer mall.”

“The point I want to drive home in this book is that Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same.”

That last one struck a chord with me. Protest as I often might, that I’m sufficiently different than the world, am I really? After a decade of preaching to young students that they can’t be the same as all of the rest of the students walking the halls in their schools…have I forgotten to preach it to myself?

The fact is that Christians are supposed to be different. “Holy” means “set apart” or “distinct.” 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The assumption is that you’re different enough that people will wonder why.

Are you different enough from the world in the way you spend your money? Do you drive the exact same type of car, have the exact same types of luxury items?

Are you different enough from the world in the way you spend your time? Besides the fact that you go to church on Sunday mornings, would anyone know you’re a Christian by the way you use your time?

Are you different enough from the world in the way you speak and joke? Or do your jokes and conversation topics border on the gross and inappropriate like everyone else’s?

It’s not that we can’t drive the same car, take the same vacations, talk about the Tigers victory like everyone else. We can sometimes.

But if we’re supposed to influence the world, how can we do so by being the same?

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