Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
More than any time in recent memory in the United States, this is a time when Christians should stand out.
I mean this in a positive sense, stand out as outstanding in hope, kindness, and joy.
Even a generation or two ago being a Christian in the United States was much more cultural than we would like to admit. Many Christian values and standards (like keeping sabbath) were enforced by the larger society. Living in a depressed, post-Christendom, pandemic-laden, hedonistic, and self-affirming society means that being a real disciple of Jesus Christ will make you stand out.
This means, we have a remarkable opportunity. If we can unite in praying for the type of deep discipleship required of us, we will look very different than those around us. This can make a difference in our society. There are three areas where I see the Christian as being outstanding in the coming decades.
First, the Christian will be outstanding in not being angry, not losing her or his temper when things don’t go their way. Alarming, free-floating anger is in our society, visible in everything from gun violence to politics and even in churches. All of my grandchildren over the age of 2 can tell you where anger comes from. “You know Grandpa: anger comes from not getting your own way.” Christians should be praying “Thy will be done,” not “I need it my way.” I pray that we can find ways to help one another truly trust Jesus in a way that anger dissolves and hope and even joy blossoms.
Secondly, Christians will be outstanding as people of hope in an age of anxiety. One of the most profound verses about the Christian life is Philippians 4:6 (and it is one of the most difficult to embrace fully). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” People who are genuinely people of hope are winsome. So much of our anxiety is a deeply spiritual matter. We often tell our children when they are grumpy, “You can choose to be happy.” There is some truth to that, but there is great truth to the fact that trusting God—a loving, gracious and forgiving God—is the taproot of our faith. Faith, means trust. Too often we trust our emotions (which often mislead) rather than trusting God (who never misleads).
Thirdly, Christians will stand out because of our humility. Christian freedom means freedom to love others, to serve others, and to say “No” to our own desires and feelings. As I have written before, one of the key distinctions of what it means to be human is that we can exercise self-control. We can override instinct, emotions and desires. Christians, in an age of depression, and increasing drug addictions and overdoses will be outstanding in service to others. “Who are we going to get to help,” should be music go the ears of any local church. “Here we are, send us!” Verses like, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20) immediately pop to mind.
In short, as society becomes more anxious and fragile, Christians should stand out as hopeful, joyful and reliable. I believe only deep and abiding joy will be the pathway to the proclamation of the Good News our society desperately needs.
Scott W. Sunquist, the President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Tuesday on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.