Some of you might remember the 70’s praise chorus, “They’ll Know We Are Christians”,
with the chorus…
“by our love,
by our love,
yes they’ll know-oh
we are Christians
by our love.”
In the past decades, Christians separated themselves from the “worldly” culture, preferring their own Christian sub-culture. The only area where we have a visible presence in the public arena is as antagonists in the political realm.
Our participation in the public sphere has been an attempt to morally shape the culture through political influence which requires the amassing of political clout or power. This has almost exclusively been focused on conservative middle-class values.
What has this done for the Christian reputation, our witness?
What has been the price of being “right”?
What if, like the early believers in Acts, our reputation was that we loved and served those in need? Perhaps if that were our reputation and witness, we wouldn’t be as easily dismissed. Perhaps we wouldn’t be quite so “persecuted.”
Somehow pursuing love, service, and justice as our expression of faith in the public sphere is suspect in evangelical realms. Why did practicing love toward our neighbors get negatively labeled as a liberal social gospel?
As emerging/missional christians shift their attention to lifestyles that express the love that the gospel calls us to, they are constantly challenged to prove their evangelical credentials. The very act of focusing on service and practice arouses suspicion of liberalism and a lack of adherence to orthodox beliefs.
What I don’t understand is why we don’t question the lack of practical expression of the doctrines we flaunt.
The evangelical mindset is still deeply entrenched in the hearts of many believers, and our resulting reputation is still deeply entrenched in the minds of the public.
If we stand in our churches singing updated versions of this chorus, we are fooling ourselves. This is not our reputation in mainstream America, especially in the midst of an election season. They know the issues we stand for and against, but they don’t know we are Christians by our love.