As a church leader, I’m hearing much about contextualization and relevance. But like many who discuss dogma, the definitions are scrambled at best among its armchair experts. It’s always been important to me to strike a balance of Scriptural exegesis and cultural exegesis. With that said, consider Jesus.
In stark contrast to most of His modern followers, Jesus was relevant to the people and issues of His generation, and every generation since. He related well. Well, many Christians don’t. Too often, we seem to be caught in a time warp. Jesus’ original followers turned the world upside down. More recently, it seems the world has turned the church upside down. Church is no longer seen as relevant to everyday life. The average guy on the street thinks, “Maybe, the church has something to say about life after death, but not life on earth.” That’s why at Mobberly, as we are working through 2 Corinthians on Sunday mornings, I have often used the slogan: “Living your everyday faith.”
Two thousand years ago, some people liked Jesus, others hated Him. Some enjoyed His company, others avoided Him like the plague. Some were attracted to Him, others were offended by Him. Think for a moment, who was attracted to Jesus? Who liked to hang around him?
Jesus was having dinner one evening when “many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him” (Matthew 9:10). The religious leaders of that day were outraged by His behavior. Their conclusion was that Jesus was a friend of sinners, and as it turns out, He was. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Jesus was morally separate from sinners and never took part in their lifestyle. Yet He did not separate Himself physically from sinful people. He spent time with them and became their friend.
Just like Jesus, you and I can’t help but rub shoulders with all kinds of people in our daily routines. Tertullian, (Church historian from the 3rd century), described the relationships between the Christians and non-Christians of his day this way: “We live among you, eat the same food, wear the same clothes . . . . We sojourn with you in the world, renouncing neither forum, nor market, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn . . . . We till the ground with you, we join with you in business ventures.”
We also must be actively seeking the lost, as Jesus did-and it doesn’t take much effort. We often spend more time trying to figure out how to make Jesus relevant, and that’s not the problem. Jesus is still relevant. We may not be, but He is! How about a little personal evaluation, here: It’s good to ask ourselves from time to time, “Do I have lost friends?” But then again, if they are your friends, certainly, they must feel accepted by you, otherwise you wouldn’t label them “friends.” So, the follow-up question is, “Are you bringing them to Christ?” It’s not what do you want or even what does the lost person want, it’s what does God want!