I recently read a Fox News article about a “minister” who has opened up a tattoo parlor “in his church.” In attempting to become more and more “relevant” religious groups are coming up with all kinds of news ways to connect with the people. Right here in Hot Springs, a local group hosts Mixed Martial Arts fights as their local outreach. All of these things beg the question, where is the line? When have we gone too far?
Where’s the Line?
1. The Example of Christ – First, consider the example of Christ. He was absolutely hated, in His day, for associating with “sinners.” If we want to walk as Jesus walked, we need to get out of our buildings, get out of our suits and ties, and get with the people. Talk to them, teach them, love them! The world will never see the love of Christ if we are not living it out.
But, Jesus never participated in the world’s behaviors. He didn’t try to look like the prostitutes and tax-collectors. He didn’t adopt their lifestyles. He simply let them know He cared about them by eating with them, talking with them, and touching them. If we truly want to be “relevant” and change people’s lives we will become more like Christ, not more like the world!
2. The Example of Paul – I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9. He lists several groups of people and what he had done to influence them and win their souls. He concludes by saying, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). That’s ministry! Paul said, “though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul was willing to associate with anyone. More than that, like Christ, he was willing to become the servant of anyone! That’s how we need to minister!
But don’t take this passage to mean that Paul became one of the people he was trying to save. He said, “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Although he associated and served idol worshiping pagans, he did not stop submitting himself to the law of Christ by joining in their sins.
3. Don’t Conform, Be Transformed – Although we are to associate with those of the world, love those of the world, serve those of the world, and influence those of the world we must be careful that we are not conformed to the world, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). I think this group in Michigan, and thousands more like them, have almost completely conformed to the world.
If you want to know what I think about Christians and tattoos you can watch this video, “What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos.” But very few things associate a person with the world, in our culture, as much as a tattoo parlor. When a religious group brings in a tattoo parlor it screams to the world, “We are like you!” Shouldn’t we rather be saying, “We
are were like you, we understand where you are, we love you, now come and be like Christ!”
The Line – I think the line that churches and Christians should not cross is the line of ownership. Tattoo parlors, MMA fighting, and any other activities associated, in our culture, with worldliness say, “We are of the world! We belong to the world, just like you!” We must find a way to say to the world, “We are of Christ, and we love you!” We must not send the message to the world that we belong to this world. We must send the message to the world that we belong to Christ and we want them to belong to Christ too. That doesn’t mean we sit aloof in our “ivory towers.” It means we get down in the trenches and show them what Christianity is all about! They know what worldliness is all about; they need to see what godliness is all about.
What do you think? How can we show ourselves to belong to Christ, yet still busy and active in the lives of those outside of Christ? What have you done recently in the trenches? Leave your comments below.
I love you and the God who wrapped Himself in human flesh loves you,