I don’t have to spend that much time trying to make the case that we live in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. You can look back decades ago when prayer was taken out of public schools. You can look as recently as last week when a school in Ohio was forced to pay a fine of $95,000 and take down a portrait of Jesus that had been hanging since 1947 after being sued by the ACLU. It’s not that culture is indifferent towards Christianity; it seems as if it’s becoming outright hostile to our beliefs. The question is, how do we respond?
We can look back to Jesus’ day and see incredible similarities. Jesus was born into a Jewish culture that was at war. Subjugated by the Romans, the Jewish people saw their freedom and their way of life under siege by an overreaching, ultra-liberal government. How they responded is how many of us respond today.
Essenes – This was a group of Jews who believed that everything in the world was evil and tainted. Their response was to run and hide, to live in communes out in the desert, far from mankind. Today, I’d call that response “Bunker Bob.” Bunker Bob is the dad who’s afraid to venture out into the world. He unplugs the televisions, snatches up the cell phones, and doesn’t allow his family out into the world, for fear they might get infected.
Zealots – These Jews were the revolutionaries whose response to Roman oppression was violent revolt. They were the terrorists of the day. Today, I’d call that response “Angry Alan.” Angry Alan is the dad who overly delights in judging and condemning the world around him. Making heavy usage of Old Testament fire and brimstone, he’s smugly looks on as the world goes to Hell, pointing his finger the whole way.
Sadducees – The Sadducees were a group of religious leaders based out of Jerusalem who had compromised their religious convictions to hold onto power under Roman rule. In short, they sold out. This response I like to call “Compromising Carl.” Compromising Carl is the dad who simply gives in, who allows the world to have full sway with his family, trusting that the world truly has his best interests at heart.
Pharisees – The Pharisees lived out among the people in the countryside. Their rigid interpretation of Old Testament Law enabled them to judge openly and disregard those not like them. In their eyes, God loved only the Jews, so they were under no compulsion to care for those not like them. They tried to exist as if the Gentiles (non-Jews) didn’t exist. Today that person is “Ignoring Ivan.” Churches love Ignoring Ivan. He represents the person that tries to recreate his entire social existence inside the four walls of the church so he doesn’t have to interact with those not like him. Sunday morning, Sunday night, after Sunday night fellowship, Monday night committee meeting, Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night church . . . you get the picture. If he can just be at church all the time, then maybe he won’t have to interact with the broken world around him.
When Jesus came of age and started his ministry, he made all four groups angry. He didn’t run and hide from the world like the Essenes, he lived among it. Jesus didn’t violently oppose the Romans, he loved them and served them, even healing their servants. He didn’t compromise his beliefs like the Sadducees but unashamedly stood on the truth. And he didn’t ignore the Gentiles like the Pharisees did, but he engaged them and showed them grace.
When it comes to your response to today’s Anti-Christian culture, who describes you best? Bunker Bob? Angry Alan? Compromising Carl? Ignoring Ivan? Or Jesus?