Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Relevance of Exiles

You know, the more I think about it, the more I don't feel like making my faith relevant or contemporary or a thousand other slogans and labels that Christian pop-culture might come up with that really only mean cool. How are my non-Christian friends supposed to respect a faith or respect a people that is just constantly begging for their acceptance? When I read (for example) Relevant Magazine, I am embarrassed at how they make faith in Jesus look - like a weak thing that we need to build this whole hipster image around so that it doesn't look absolutely, mind-numbingly dull. Because that's the point of Relevant Magazine, isn't it? That you can be a Christian AND be cool too?

The Kingdom & The Exile
There are 2 ways to look at living out our faith in this world; (1) we can be relevant, begging for acceptance and trying to look like all the non-Christians - and have our Jesus too, or (2) we could be exiles and see ourselves as strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11.13). Notice that only one of these options comes with a Scripture reference. If we belong to God's Kingdom, which is not of this world (John 18.36), then let's not get attached to the way this world works: its materialism, its tolerant pluralism, its sexual ethics, its less-than-stellar family values, politics, entertainment, fashion, trends, philosophy, acceptance, or expectations.

Because the faith of Jesus is better than what His followers call relevance, which is not relevance, it is just a sad cry for the acceptance of a confused, empty, dying world, in the name of evangelism, from Christians who unknowingly have already been evangelized by the world they seek to reach for their incomparable Saviour.

Lyrics to Remember
Here are some lyrics from "In Exile" by Thrice, in no particular order. I hope they get you thinking.

I am an exile, a sojourner
A citizen of some other place
I am a nomad, a wanderer
I have nowhere to lay my head down
There's no point in putting roots
Too deep when I'm moving on
Not settling for this unsettling town
My heart is filled with songs of forever
A city that endures, where all is made new
And no, I don't belong here
I'll never call this place my home
I am a pilgrim, a voyager
I wont rest until my lips touch the shore
Of the land that I've been longing for as long as I've lived
My heart is filled with songs of forever
A city that endures, where all is made new
Where they'll be no pain or tears anymore



  1. Facetiousness aside- I have noticed a little bit of this too, and am guilty of it myself. The world is so appealing, who wouldn't want to live in the world, AND have their Jesus? It is appealing to have both, I must admit I have wanted to have it both ways. But, alas, it isn't meant to be that way.

    Not only are the World's workings not in line with what God wants, but Satan uses just the right can of worms to get us Humans to nibble at the line on his fishing pole to reel us into the pit that is Hell. He (the enemy) feeds into our sinful desires with slogans like "You can have as much sex as you want outside of marriage, and not feel guilty about it, just as long as you use condoms and birth control."
    And "Its alright to have sex with your best friend's wife if you are really in love!" and things such as that. It's a lousy metaphor, but I suppose it gets the job done, and I am rambling.
    I suppose what you are really getting at is Christians are becoming complacent, and in a way to attract new followers, we are attempting to "spice up the sauce," so to say, and bring new people into the flocks without fully preparing them for the struggles they will face as believers... Or that's what I see anyway, and you could be going a totally different direction from me. Imma go and read that passage now and see if I can glean anything else from it.


  2. Thank you for your post Sean, it is so true and you couldn't of said it better. The Lord said that the gospel would offend many....if presented correctly. However many a church has presented the gospel according to their standards in order to make the outsider feel comfortable...somewhat seeker friendly! But theres a danger in doing this because the gospel gets watered down, and the message of the cross is never presented in the full picture! When Jesus said to take up the cross and follow me--He meant just that, sometimes we become so churched that we can't think outside the box ! Kepp posting are so encouraging in your walk with the Lord!
    `~Blessings, Diane LeNouail

  3. Swift,

    Thanks for the response. While I wouldn’t say that Christian pop-culture in general, or Relevant Magazine in particular, are advocating “hav[ing] as much sex as you want outside of marriage” or “hav[ing] sex with your best friend’s wife,” I do think that the problem is more subtle than that and also more dangerous: they aren’t advocating rebellion against God, they are just creating a Christian environment in which we (the Church in North America/Europe) really want to be accepted by the world. We say that it’s for the purpose of advancing the Gospel and making it seem like Christianity matters in the lives of unchurched 20-somethings, but the truth is that we just want to be liked; we want to be cool; we want to be relevant, in a word. That sets us up for all kinds of compromise, both small and great.

    And, in doing so, we create an easy/hip/trendy Christianity, in which we “bring new people into the flocks without fully preparing them for the struggles they will face as believers,” like you said.


  4. Blessings to you too, Diane! Thanks for the reply!

    You’re right – the Gospel offends; there is a danger when you get to the point that Christianity/Jesus/The Good News/Salvation can be presented as something trendy, or stylish, or cool. The message that you and I are so desperately wicked that God had to endure brutal beatings and death for us to even have the option of being made right with Him, well, it’s hard to fit that into something your average non-Christian, socially and environmentally conscious, college educated, 20-something scenester would be cool with, no matter what the “packaging” for that message was. So at best the effort just comes off as embarrassing and pathetic. It doesn’t feel genuine.

    This whole seeker-friendly (or relevant, or contemporary) thing seems unhelpful. And also shallow. Like you said, “the Gospel gets watered down, and the message of the cross is never presented in the full picture,” and it creates weak disciples and a weaker Christian culture overall.

    Thanks for the reminder that “when Jesus said to take up the cross and follow Me – He meant just that.”


  5. Whoa! Sean, man, you misinterpreted me. I was saying Satan, not Christian pop-culture or Relevant Magazine, was giving the go ahead for those actions. I think, hindsight being 20/20, I should have used the metaphor of putting a donut on a stick and dangling it in front of a fat kid's (like me) face in order to get him to run. Satan puts those things (what's acceptable to the World) on a stick and dangles them in front of us on a stick to get us to run after them, in accordance with our sinful desires.
    I think I was off topic with this bit, but it looks like I hit the nail right on the head, so to speak, with my latter comment. I'm batting .500, :)
    Its good to have discourse like this again. :)

  6. Hey Swift, sorry for misunderstanding you buddy!

    Yeah, Satan definitely dangles temptation in front of the eyes of Christians in order to get them off track - and succeeds often, though I wish I could say that he wasn't so successful at that kind of distraction.

    And maybe that isn't so off-topic after all: I mean, whether Satan is dangling sexual temptation or the twin idols of acceptance and popularity, those are still both methods that he uses to pull us back into the world's way of thinking and doing, and out of a legitimately Christian mindset and lifestyle. One temptation is more blatant than the other, but they are still both temptations.

  7. Awww, shucks! So we'll call it .750! :p

    I was actually thinking of something before I went to bed last night (at 3am no less!) I had read this in a book I read ("Jesus Freaks" by DC Talk.) In the predominantly Christian countries (The US, Canada, most of Europe, and others) Christians are generally more secularized than in countries where Christianity is restricted or forbidden. Here, people look up to and 'idolize' sports stars (Brett Farve), Movie stars (Tom Cruise), musicians (Eminem) and others to name a few.
    We look at them like they are gods, and leave God out of it unless we are really in trouble or about to die. The term "deathbed confessional" comes to mind when I think about it. Whereas in the forbidden or restricted countries, all they look up to is the Heavenly Father and his Only Son to get them through each day, because they never know when they will be captured and tortured to recant their faith, shot and killed for their Faith, or put in prison to die for it. Maybe we could take some examples from these Christians as we live our lives.

  8. Some good thoughts, there!

    I think that you're on to something man. In predominantly Christian countries, the Church is "safe" from persecution and isn't really driven away by the majority population, so it's easier for Christians to feel like they are a part of the culture - lack of persecution makes it really hard to see think of yourself as an exile. That isn't to say that being persecuted will automatically make you a great Christian. But the real issue is alienation: those Christians aren't applying principles or examples to their lives, they've just had it made painfully clear to them that they don't belong. Which they don't. None of us do; we just forget that when we get comfortable, and that's when we get into trouble.

  9. Sorry it has taken me a while to come back here. I have only had time for email, Facebook, and checking bank statements with my work schedule lately. Agreed. And I am guilty of it more than my fair share.


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