The most popular Christmas movie of my childhood was, without a doubt, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And not the 2000 version with Jim Carrey. I’m talking about the 1966 animated version, brought to us every year by the now fossilized VHS player.
Interestingly enough, even after watching and re-watching those 26 minutes of greatness every Christmas, I never could even remotely understand how anyone could live life like the Grinch – separated from society and simply watching the world go by. Upset at the way things are but not really doing anything about it.
Fast forward to 2020, the year of crises. As various as the different circumstances have been these past 12 months, the reactions to those circumstances have been every bit as diverse.
Some are bound by fear of the virus, others by anger over injustices and still others by indifference toward it all.
To an extent, these reactions are to be expected. Fear, panic, and anger are not exclusive to 2020. However, one worrisome reaction I’ve seen has come from members of the church, and I can’t say I ever saw it coming.
This is the reaction to recede from society, to pull back, and simply leave the machinations and arenas of the world to figure themselves out. One excellent example would be those who refuse to vote in our American elections, simply because the ballot doesn’t contain any perfect human beings who’ve lived completely blameless lives.
The life of a Christian is bound to look different from the world, from the lives of people who do not live under the morality and worldview of the Bible. Because of this, a temptation can arise to wall ourselves off from culture, like the Grinch during Christmas.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about a health-related quarantine. I’m talking about a culture-related absence.
Imagine for a moment the darkness and depravity of some of these sectors – Hollywood for example. Now imagine how much darker they would become if you remove every shred of Christian influence, no matter how small or outnumbered, from those areas.
The decline would be drastic.
I find it especially interesting that the images Jesus draws when describing His followers are those of salt and light. Not necessarily precious rubies or gems (although we are all invaluable in His sight) to be stored away under lock and key.
Salt and light. Two things that are inherently useful only if placed in the correct environment. Two things that are meant to be used to exact a meaningful change. Light is placed among darkness to drive out that darkness. Salt was spread on meat to preserve and protect that resource.
However, if you remove these two items from their intended environments, they lose all purpose, don’t they? A glowing lamp in the middle of an already lighted room is basically unnoticeable. Salt, if no longer applied to the raw meat, will have no preservative effect, and has lost all impact on that substance.
I’ve heard, more or less, the call to recede from society by church members specifically in regards to social media. A hot-button topic unlike any other, the subject of social media can be a touchy one for sure. I understand, of course, that many choose not to partake in social media for a whole plethora of intelligent reasons.
But the sweeping, generalized statements I hear always give me pause. Prominent figures talk of social media as if it would have been on par with Sodom and Gomorrah. A pit of vile and filth that needs to be evacuated post-haste by all God-fearing individuals.
My question is simple: Are we really willing to completely surrender these areas of our culture to the darkness?
The worlds of news media, social media, Hollywood, etc. might be bleak and lacking morality, but isn’t that all the more reason for salt and light to be sent into those areas?
Jesus Himself entered a morbidly dark world, spreading truth and love, with every intention of raising followers who would go after Him and do the same.
Followers of Christ receding from any area of culture will cause an obvious decline in that area.
Imagine if, during the next election cycle, every single Christian government leader decided to hang it up and do something else, on account of the moral darkness of Washington D.C.
Imagine the impact of every follower of Jesus deciding to abstain from voting because after all, politics is such a dark place.
What do you suppose would happen to the political landscape in our country?
As is the case in every sector of our culture. The media world might not be your calling, but I guarantee you have one.
If you’re a teacher, the education world needs the light of Jesus. If you’re in government, the political world needs the light of Jesus. If you’re a salesperson, the business world needs the light of Jesus. If you’re a reporter, the media world needs the light of Jesus.
The areas of influence are different from person to person, but the calling is the same for all followers of Jesus Christ. No retreat. We are called to enter culture, to engage with the people in society, not recede from it, because that’s where you’ll find people who sorely need Jesus Christ.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).