Adults ages 18-33 fall into a category called “Millennials.” As the next generation of parents, prime ministers and presidents, they are the future of any society. What they think says a great deal about what their culture will think.
For those of us who believe God’s word on issues such as same-sex marriage, the news is not encouraging. Nearly 7-in-10 Millennials support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Not surprisingly, only one-quarter believe that evangelical Christians are somewhat or very friendly toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people. In fact, nearly two-thirds agree that “anti-gay” describes Christianity somewhat or very well. And more than 6-in-10 younger Millennials believe that Christians could be described as “judgmental.”
How should the church respond? Consider four options.
One: we can fight back. In 1991, sociologist James Davison Hunter defined our era as a “culture war” with two definable polarities on issues such as abortion, gun rights, and homosexuality. Time magazine’s new cover story is titled “Space Invaders,” with the subtitle: “From Russian beetles to giant African snails, the U.S. is under assault—and it’s costing us billions.” It’s easy to feel the same way about moral trends in our culture, choosing to fight back in an adversarial spirit. However, is this “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)?
Two: we can retreat into familiar and safe Christian subcultures. Rising anti-Semitism in France is pushing record numbers of French Jews to make aliyah, relocating to Israel. American Christians can do the same thing, choosing to live and work only with fellow Christians. However, does this approach keep our “salt” in the saltshaker, our light under a basket (Matthew 5:13-16)?
Three: we can capitulate to the culture. Franklin Graham‘s recent essay on courage decries pastors who “just want to preach the Gospel and not become targets by speaking out on specific issues that Jesus Himself did not address.” We are called to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Will silence on significant issues be interpreted as capitulation or even endorsement?
Four: we can earn the right to speak the truth. Jesus so confronted a Samaritan woman’s sins that she later said he “told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). But first he shocked her with his desire to know her personally, even though “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (v. 9). Rather than rejecting his honesty, she then became his ambassador to her village so that “many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (v. 39).
Who will believe in Jesus because of your testimony today?