Live Quietly

Christians are obnoxious.

Well, okay, not all Christians are obnoxious, but some of us certainly can be. I’m sure you can tell I’m a Christ-follower, so I need to give you a bit of an explanation. In America today, Christians are loud.

Christians vote Republican.
Christians protest at abortion clinics.
Christians are anti-gay marriage.
Christians are pro-Israel.

These are some sweeping generalizations, and they’re untrue. There are Christians who disagree with all of these, but for obvious reasons, these generalizations are often what come to mind when people think of Christians.

But is this really what God wanted people to see of his church, of his representatives on this earth? Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was gently written and full of encouragement. In the letter, Paul reminisces frequently about the joyful time he had when he visited them, but he also has some interesting advice about how the church should relate to “outsiders”, to the greater cultural and societal context of the church:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (ESV)

Paul advises the Thessalonians to live quietly and to mind their own affairs. Why? So that they may live properly before outsiders. Everything the church does should be motivated by a love for God and a love for other people. God is love, and the church should also love. As a church, our imperative is to tell people about the gospel, about how God loves them and wants them to know him. Our imperative is not to improve society–our society is broken beyond repair, and the only way it will ever be made right is when the Lord makes all things new at the end of time.

So should we really be so politically active with our beliefs? Maybe not, especially because not everyone in the church even agrees on these smaller issues. Focusing on these small issues and doing so with such vigor is only likely to make people angry, rather than drawing them to Jesus. The Gospel is already divisive enough without making it political. Even the simplest claims of Jesus incite people to argue with each other, and he knew this (“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother.” Matthew 10:35). Even claiming that God exists is controversial. Claiming that we should love this God and give him our lives is more controversial still.

God is love, and he wants us to love people. Perhaps we should rethink our approach to this.

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2 responses to “Live Quietly

  1. “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

    Your Christianity has become a vague passing thought, when it is intended as the Truth for the entire world. If you find the world politely accepting you in your quiet, you may want to speak.

    • Well, I don’t think my Christianity is a vague passing thought, but as we’re each supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (which I think means “with extreme care”), I’ll give this some reflection.

      I still stand by what I wrote, but I may not have been as clear as I intended. I think every person should form opinions about these smaller issues and finer doctrinal points (and I’m talking about a lot more than just the hot-button examples I gave. In fact those were just hot-button for the sake of making a point.) Without each Christian thinking deeply about these things, we would have a pretty impoverished philosophy with little depth. However, these inflammatory issues aren’t the core of our faith, and we should strive to present the most important parts of the gospel to “outsiders”–give them milk before solid food, as Paul might say. If they become Christians, then they can think deeply, pray, read the Scriptures, and form their own ideas.

      I also didn’t mean to suggest that we should not be involved in our government. We live in a democracy, and in this country “rendering unto Ceasar” means voting, making our opinions known, and being involved in the political process. However, Christianity is not political, and we are in the world, but not of it. Our philosophy should inform our political opinions, but we shouldn’t make our political opinions a part of our philosophy. If we tell people, for example, that God wants us to reduce government spending (an opinion I’ve heard at least once), we have no Scriptural basis for that, and we’re only likely to make unnecessary enemies, in addition to the necessary enemies who don’t like the idea of God, morals, etc.

      All that probably should have gone in my post, but your reply gave me an opportunity to append it onto the end. Thanks for reading!

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