Jesus is a television star once again.
'Jesus: His Life' is airing on the History Channel through Easter. According to the show’s website, “the series interviews and consulted with a diverse group of scholars, faith leaders and theologians from across the ideological spectrum.” It views Jesus “through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him.”
Meanwhile, 'The Chosen' will debut online April 15. The series is intended to be “faithful to the biblical text while gritty in tone.”
Jesus is clearly popular in our culture. Barna research reports that 73 percent of Americans identify as Christians. According to Gallup, that’s far higher than the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans (26 percent) or Democrats (30 percent). Census data shows that Christians outnumber any racial demographic in our country.
However, while nearly three in four Americans say they are Christians, Barna reports that only 55 percent attended a church service in the last six months. Other studies show that only 23 to 25 percent of us attend three Sundays out of eight.
Clearly, Jesus is more popular than the church today. What can you and I do about this?
As I've noted, the need of our day is for Christians to manifest boldness with humility. Why are both essential in our post-Christian (or at least post-church) culture?
The more people reject Christian truth, the more they need to hear it. The sicker the patient, the more he or she needs a doctor.
That’s why we must use our influence to speak biblical truth in every way we can. Every non-Christian we meet is someone whose soul is in eternal peril. Many Americans have not heard biblical answers to cultural questions. According to Pew Research Center, nearly half of Americans seldom or never read God’s word.
Paul asked, “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14).
But we must speak biblical truth with biblical humility. When we convey the impression that we think we are better than others or are judging them, they are understandably resistant to our message. “Speaking the truth in love” is the mandate of our day (Ephesians 4:15).
Here’s the other side of the story: as much as our culture needs us to embrace bold humility, many are suspicious of both.
Our society has decided that absolute truth does not exist (which is an absolute truth claim, by the way). We therefore have no right to “force” our beliefs on others. If we stand boldly for biblical truth, we are accused of intolerance, bigotry, and so on.
This standard apparently does not apply to those on the other side of the cultural wars.
For instance, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting on Alyssa Milano’s crusade for a boycott of Georgia’s film industry over a bill that would prohibit most abortions after a heartbeat is detected. I have seen no one in the mainstream media accuse her of intolerance or bigotry toward pro-life supporters.
Humility is a countercultural value as well in a society that elevates the self-made hero. Our ethos claims that we can do anything if we get up earlier, stay up later, work longer, and try harder. Admitting that we need God and other people is a recipe for scorn and worse.
How, then, can you and I embrace and exhibit bold courage tempered by genuine humility?
Embracing our identity in Christ is the key.
When we know that we are loved absolutely and unconditionally by God, we are free to stand for truth no matter what others think of us. The apostles could “stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20), knowing that the worst that could happen to them—martyrdom—would lead to the best that could happen to them—entrance into God’s perfect paradise.
Because they knew they were loved, they were free to speak boldly whatever the cost.
Knowing that our value rests in God’s love for us also engenders humility. We are no better than those we are seeking to persuade and serve. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Jesus loves every person we know as much as he loves us.
Because the Apostles knew they were loved, they were empowered to love others as they were loved.
Our culture is clearly interested in Jesus. If we want people to be interested in his message, we need to deliver it with bold humility birthed in our identity in him. Then they will see his love in ours and be drawn to his love for them.
Who are your neighbors today?