We live in a world wrought with sin and confusion. There is no shortage of brokenness both near and far: addiction, mental illness, sexual immorality, abortion, gender confusion, political corruption, racism…the list goes on and on. And yet, this is where we live; and so, as Christians we must find a way to navigate who we are in Christ in the midst of a lost world. What follows are three principles that we must uphold – and more importantly live out – in our family, school, workplace, and neighborhood.
As Christians grounded in the truth of God’s Word, we must hold to our convictions with both grace and truth. We must stand in both love for the lost and love for our Lord – the only one we are accountable to. We are called to be pillars of truth and ambassadors for Christ (1 Tim. 3:15, 2 Cor. 5:20). We cannot participate in or approve of the sin, evil, falsehood, brokenness that we see. We cannot become partners of or partakers in darkness. We are called to walk as children of light.
Ephesians 5:7-9 – “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Being people of conviction means we don’t compromise what we believe. Standing as a pillar of truth might mean getting involved in your local school board or running for a government office to fight for fair, safe, rational legislation. Conviction might mean losing a friend or family member – but only if they demand that you not just love them but you affirm their choices. Upholding your convictions might mean losing a job for refusing to sign a diversity statement if it violates your conscience.
While we are not of the world, we are sent into the world (Jn. 17:14-18). We can’t just put our head in the sand, withdraw, or hide. We can’t go out of the world. We must maintain a connection; we must stay engaged with hurting sinners. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the depravity of adultery and incest in the church. He goes on to clarify:
1 Corinthians 5:9-10 – “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.”
In the apostle Paul’s mind it would be inconceivable for a Christian not to have some association with nonbelievers. He goes on to say that it is not our place to judge the world; that is God’s place (vs. 12-13). Therefore, we must press into the mess, into the confusion – offering food to those dying of hunger, light to those trapped in darkness, clarity to those overcome by confusion, and hope to those strangled by despair.
Maintaining connection with those outside of the faith may mean reaching out to a neighbor living outside of biblical norms of gender and sexuality. God may call you to stay in a workplace with a moral culture that is incredibly difficult to navigate. And connection likely means continuing to love and serve children and family members who are struggling with sin.
We must remember that sin is not only rebellion, it is enslavement. People caught in sinful patterns, ideologies, or identities are harassed and helpless – and our response should be compassion.
Matthew 9:36 – “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
God’s Spirit can give us Christ’s heart of compassion. Imagine being so hurt, so lost, so blinded by darkness that you felt your only hope was to change your gender. Imagine being so ensnared in self-hatred, that substance abuse seemed your only escape. Image being so overcome by guilt or depression that sexual promiscuity seemed to be your best chance for love. Our primary disposition toward the brokenness in the world should not be judgment, anger, or disgust – it should be deep compassion, sadness, and sympathy. It should break our hearts.
Being people of compassion means we are diligent to continue in prayer both for hurting people and those who push harmful ideologies. We plead for God’s mercy! Compassion means we are hopeful, trusting the grace of God, and sharing the Gospel with boldness.
Living with Conviction, Connection, and Compassion
To truly stay engaged in a lost and hurting world we must stand as people of Conviction, Connection, and Compassion. It is these three qualities together that is so powerful, but also so challenging. Only living in one of them would be a whole lot easier. Even two together would be manageable. To be a person with Conviction for the truth and Connection to a lost world – but no Compassion – would be doable. Or to maintain Connection to a lost world, full of Compassion, but with no Conviction – this might be achievable. But we are called to stand in all three principles – and that we can only do with the Holy Spirit guiding and filling us. God, give us grace to faithfully and fruitfully engage the world!