By Jeff Goins, Editor
Let’s face it: Christianity in the Western world is quickly changing. If you’ve had a conversation with an average person on the street about what she believes about God or religion, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that she probably doesn’t have regard for those topics. More and more people don’t know what they believe, or simply don’t believe in much at all. Many Christians are even having crises of faith. The things our parents believed about politics, the world, and spirituality in many ways now seem rote, in dire need of being reinvented.
A variety of contributing factors can be credited for this changing cultural landscape: the end of the industrial age, the birth of free information, and technology that focuses on the life of the individual. One reason why so much social change seems to be happening is because people in the West are changing. We no longer blindly accept the propositional truths and traditions passed on to us by our predecessors. Many are questioning everything; they just can’t seem to help it. Call it postmodernism or crazy teenage rebellion, but something about our culture is definitely changing.
And still, there is a group of us who think that this world can be redeemed, that God has a plan, and that the message of Jesus is somehow universally relevant, even to cynics like me. We believe that faith, hope, and love are still the greatest elements of the universe, and we want to see them, receive them, and share them.
Here’s what I think that looks like in the 21st Century:
Faith as a conversation. You’ve probably heard this buzzword thrown around more than you have cared to hear. I know I have. Conversation. It’s been overused by many progressive Christians (you may use or have heard the words “emergent” or “emerging”) to the point that it now comes off as arrogant.
But what could be more beautiful than a conversation?
There’s a story in the Christian Scriptures where Jesus reveals himself as the rightful king of Israel to a promiscuous woman at a well. How does he do it? With a church service? Big tent revival with flashing fanfare and confetti? Nope. With a conversation. There’s something genuine, transcendent even, that is communicated in a conversation that can’t be transferred any other way. Sharing one’s faith through conversing is a must for the age in which we are now entering.
Hope as a tangible reality. We Americans abuse the word “hope.” I hope I see you tomorrow. I hope to go to a movie tonight. I hope the Braves win the World Series this year. But “hope” means so much more than that, and as a friend of mine once said, “Everyone in the world needs hope.” In this new age, Christ-followers need to begin expressing our hope in more tangible ways: an encouraging word to someone who’s depressed, an act of generosity towards the impoverished, a grandiose gesture of dignity to someone struggling with self-worth.
This means that we need to do more than tell people about heaven. We must show it to them.
Love as an action. The same that was said about hope can be said for love. No three words in the English language have become quite as passe as “I love you.” Yes, I’ve heard that before. But what does love look like?
Can I taste, smell, and even touch your love? More importantly, will it touch me?
Jesus showed love by dying for the ragamuffins. He loved before those whom he loved knew how to love him back. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die for it. The apostles loved Jesus so much that they rejoiced when they were beaten for him; they loved him back by giving their lives.
We need to relearn love — messy, dirty love that costs us something. And when the world sees that kind of love, it will realize that something is missing. A ridiculous gesture of grace communicates so much more than a T-shirt or billboard that reads: “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.”
I hope that this doesn’t come off sounding pretentious or naive. I really do think that the world is changing, as are those of us inhabiting it. I believe in God and in his ability to redeem anything, but I think that it is essential for followers of Christ to grasp the reality of this shift and adapt to it. If faith, hope, and love are the essential elements of a meaningful Christian life, then we should consider what they mean to us and the world this day-in-age.
Above are just a few ways in which I think that faith, hope, and love need to be rehashed in the 21st Century. What about you?
Here are some other voices, participating in the conversation about faith, hope, and love (email us to be added to the list):
John Sylvest – I’ve Already Got Truth, Beauty, & Goodness! Why Bother with Faith, Hope & Love?
Matt Snyder – Faith, Hope, and Love: Expressed in Simplicity
Jesse Medina – Faith, Hope, and Love in the 21st Century
Kiel Spelts – Faith, Hope and Live in the 21st Century
Taylor Philips – These Three Remain
Jeff graduated from Illinois College, a small liberal arts school, with a degree in Spanish and Religion. He lives in Nashville, TN. He works for Adventures In Missions, edits this silly little magazine, and loves to do new things. He just got married in January. Check out his blog: Pilgrimage of the Heart.