Earlier this month, Cross Church hosted the Northwest Arkansas Men’s Conference and one of the featured speakers of the event was Dr. Russell Moore. Dr. Moore is a “rising star” in Southern Baptist life as the new president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The ERLC may become the most significant agency of the SBC as our culture continues its quick devolution away from a Judeo-Christian ethic.
I had never met Dr. Moore until the men’s conference, although he and I had swam in similar waters at one time and I am extremely familiar with his writings and influence. He and I are both the same age and both graduated with our doctorates from Southern Seminary in 2002. Dr. Moore and his wife adopted two little boys from Russia and he has been a strong advocate for adoption. Dr. Moore has written the wonderful book, Adopted for Life, and he spearheaded the founding of the Southern Baptist Minister’s Adoption Fund. When Julie and I were in the process of adopting our daughter from Colombia, we read and were greatly encouraged by Dr. Moore’s book and we were also able to take advantage of the Minister’s Adoption Grant. So in many, ways I feel connected to the work of Dr. Moore and am grateful on a personal level for who he is and his influence in my family’s life.
With this as backdrop, it was a joy to finally meet him personally, to shake his hand, share a meal, talk culture and Christianity, and to thank him for his influence. Dr. Moore did an outstanding job at the conference as well. He spoke straight to men about the culture and what it is going to mean to be a Christian in the United States of America in the coming days. There was one thing in particular Dr. Moore stated that has stuck with me post-conference. He explained that increasingly, what we believe as Christians and who we are in Jesus Christ is going to become stranger and stranger to people in the culture around us. He goes on to assert that this is a good thing, because never before have we as followers of Jesus Christ had such an opportunity to clearly draw a distinction between what the Bible says is good and right and pure versus what the world says is good and right and pure.
Dr. Moore is exactly right. The strangeness of who we are in Jesus Christ to the world around us is something “new” that we are going to have to get used to…and embrace. But not all “Christians” and churches are embracing this strangeness:
- Some are choosing to ignore, re-interpret, or even reject what the Bible says regarding holiness and purity and the plain and simple teachings of Jesus.
- Some are choosing to walk-away from the church altogether.
- Both “Christians” and churches have the same goal: Avoid strangeness and embrace conformity to this world.
But God does not give us any of these options. In fact, we are explicitly told by the apostle Paul that we should “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Paul was writing to the church in Rome – yes, Rome, the seat of paganism, pluralism, and idolatry. Christians in Rome must have seemed utterly and completely strange to the culture around them. And yet the church flourished. It flourished without re-interpreting or ignoring Scripture. It flourished because what it had to offer was wholly and completely different from anything else. And it worked. That’s right, following Jesus works. It leads to happy, blessed life, even in the midst of criticism and persecution.
Being strange to the world around us might be new to us as USAmericans, but it is nothing new to Christendom. In fact, it is the expected norm. We were just fortunate enough to live in a day and age when this experiment of democracy called the United States of America was beginning to come of age. While we may have been founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic, it is more likely that this gave us the perception of being a Christian nation rather than the actuality of such. With the rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethic, we are most likely allowing perception to catch up to reality. The United States is not a Christian nation. But we are a nation where Christians live and work and go to school and raise their families. Christians committed to living their lives according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and committed to following him in all things. Jesus was strange to the world around him and so, too, are we strange to the world around us.
I, for one, am eager to embrace this strangeness.