Do you realize that, having signed up for this Christianity thing, we belong to an invisible kingdom with an invisible King, wearing invisible armor to fight an (usually) invisible foe?
But wait! There's more!
If we actually do what Jesus says to do (boiled down: love Him, and the rest of His children), we shall be as glaringly obvious as salt, as light, as Manhattan on Mt. Everest!
Christianity is a faith of paradoxes: live like a sacrifice (Rom. 12:1); have a ready explanation for your inexplicable hope (1 Ptr 3:15); to be great, be a servant (Matt. 20:26); to save your life, lose it (Lk. 9:24); don't wear gold and pearls, wear good deeds instead (1 Tim. 2:9-10).
When I saw three nicely-dressed Mormon boys walking up Market Street on Thursday I realized suddenly that I have been grieving the loss of this paradox. Throughout history, all religions and their various sects have earned their "regconizeability" by being different from their surrounding cultures. Everyone recognizes the monk's habit, the guru's toga, the Muslim's turban, the Mormon's suit.
Our difference as Believers is supposed to be love (Jn. 13:35 ). But lately adherence to that greatest of commandments has begun to morph. Instead of lovingly practicing-- and reminding other people to practice-- things like "if anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (Jms. 1:26), standard practice has become "Don't tell people they have to shut up! You're so judgmental. No one has to change before they come to Jesus. He loves you where you are. We have to win people through acceptance." Which sounds lovely, but two minutes later a session of the Presbyterian Church of the USA must apply to not have any of their dues support abortions, the Pope holds a tri-faith pray-in with Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Vatican, and the Episcopalians ordain people actively engaging in homosexual behaviors. The Cult of Relevancy is established and suddenly we're invisible for all the wrong reasons.
When the stated purpose of our behavior is to blend in so that people aren't jolted out of their comfort zones, we have fallen off the wagon. Yes, Paul said he was all things to all men, and I get that-- by all means, tattoo your arm so that people want to know about that lost ship that represents your former soul. But Paul never blended in with the surrounding culture. He stood out like the sorest of thumbs. He called a spade a spade. He said, "Yes, Jesus will take you as you are, but He won't leave you that way!" By calling the above things wrong, I am not saying I hate any of the people engaged in those behaviors. But I am going to echo Jesus and say, "Neither do I condemn you; now go and sin no more." (Jn. 8:11) The lost aren't looking for our tolerance; they are on our doorsteps because they can't tolerate who they are. They realize their "normal" is broken and are looking for a "different" to intervene.
Which means that instead of being relevant and nice, we must love. Love stands out! Love intervenes! And while no modern preacher leaves love out of their main selling points, their version of love is so often cloaked in moral relativism that the lost are in danger of not being able to see the white for all the grey, let alone black! Black never even comes into it. There are hard, unfathomable things about Christianity. No denying it. That's the deal with having a God at its head who is not a tame lion. A Lion Who, as my father-in-law puts it, is not called God for no reason. But that is what the Relevant Camp tries to soften for the pre-Christian instead of giving them the dignity of assuming they can handle the truth. Which is, oddly enough, why so many within the camp get disillusioned and leave-- some to monasteries, some to atheism, some to sit in the desert for months with an open Bible trying to find true north: there isn't enough difference from their normal in what they're selling to keep them alive.
So why do I write this? What do I want? No fear. I want to stop being afraid that this treasure I hold in my earthen vessel is somehow going to be too much for the people God is actually chasing down to pour it on.
It is not the Church's job to save people; it is only to stand out like a sore thumb by loving and speaking truth. Let the Spirit worry about how relevant that is to our poor culture.