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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

How to Live Out Your Faith in a Cancel Culture

Cancel culture refers to a now common practice of withdrawing support as a way of expressing disproval over something that is considered by some to be objectionable or offensive. For some, it is a practice to embrace. For others, it is a tactic to condemn.

The concept of “canceling” is not new. Boycotts have been around for over a century and the idea dates back long before. However, the combination of social media and instant news has accelerated the practice. 72% of Americans now feel more empowered than ever before to share their thoughts or opinions about companies publicly. Brands such as Land o Lakes, Papa John’s, and Uncle Ben’s have made major changes in response.

In the public square, actors, authors, religious leaders, politicians, and everyday individuals have been affected by this culture. No one is immune.

In more private arenas, other examples include getting booted from a Facebook group, losing a friend or a group of friends, or simply being labeled because of a position you hold or a belief you promote.

Given that Christians are called to share the gospel even in the midst of a culture that does not readily welcome the truths of the gospel, how should Christians seek to communicate and live out their faith? Here are some thoughts:

1. Recognize that there are truths in the gospel message that people will find offensive. Truths such as Jesus is the only way to heaven, we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness, and the Bible has authority over your life can be stumbling blocks for some. Getting “canceled” is a risk all believers face when sharing the gospel. Jesus Himself was canceled more than once in that many walked away from Him regarding a certain teaching (Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:28; John 6:66). It goes without saying that if we are called to be like Jesus that there will be times when we will share truth that may not be received and for which we will be criticized and/or ostracized.

2. Be careful with the way you communicate the truths of the gospel. Some believers get canceled not because of the truths they share, but because of the manner in which they share them. An attitude that is prideful and/or condescending has no place in evangelism. Neither does name-calling or belittling.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-25

If you are canceled, make sure it is because of the terms of the gospel, not because you come across as a jerk, know-it-all, or Brother Superior.  

3. Don’t trumpet other issues over and above the gospel. Are your sharp opinions about minor issues keeping the people that you encounter from hearing about the major issue that the gospel addresses: how to have a relationship with God? This does not mean we cannot talk about such matters, but when we do so to the point that it drowns out our love for the other person or turns them off so that they tune out, we need to cut back. We need to keep the main thing the main thing. 

4. Listen. It is important to listen to those outside of Christianity if they have grievances against Christianity that may lead them to “cancel”. Listening to the other person’s perspective can keep the dialog open. You cannot share Christ with someone you have cut off because you were unwilling to listen or dialog. While listening, try to empathize. That does not mean that you must agree with the person’s opinion, but you acknowledge their perspective. It also allows us to discuss misconceptions (or partial conceptions) that others have about Christianity (anti-science, etc.) in a way that attracts, not attacks.

5. Confess when needed. The person or group may have a legitimate point about something wrong with Christianity’s history or current practices. I think we all agree that not everything in Christianity looks like Christ (or has looked like Christ). We need to respond not with defensiveness, but with honesty, humility, and ownership if we ourselves are guilty.

6. Don’t “cancel” the culture. When something as pervasive as cancel culture emerges, the temptation is for Christians to disengage from culture rather than engage with culture. We must be on guard to avoid disengaging from the very people God is seeking to reconcile to Himself. Railing against “them” or “those people” does nothing to promote the gospel. However, intentionally and lovingly engaging with others made in the image of God can change everything.

It is possible to love others and stay engaged with them while, at the same time, holding to our own convictions and beliefs. Jesus did it. So should we.

Copyright © 2021 David Souther, used with permission.

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