Do you remember the posters that were all the rage a few years back? Groups of people would be huddled outside a store in a shopping mall staring at a 2 x 3 poster of a random series of like-colored dots. You would cross your eyes, purposefully lose focus, change angles for what seemed like hours. People all around would be squealing with delight when an image finally appeared. For me… they seldom did.
Every once in a while you come across a statement that takes something so complex, blurry and even random and shifts it into perfect clarity. On the recommendation of some friends, I began listening to the This Cultural Moment podcast. Early on in the series the host quotes Mark Sayers from his book Disappearing Church: “Today we want the Kingdom without the King.”
This one-line definition of post-Christian culture broke into my consciousness, causing so much of what we are wrestling with to click. It reminded me of the moment when the random dots of a poster come together revealing a city skyline that was there the whole time, you just couldn’t see it.
Deep within every person is a longing for righteousness and justice. We want things in the world, at least our little corner of it, to be at peace. We want to eradicate human trafficking, racism, hunger, homelessness, abuse. We long for the day when all people can coexist in a world with no war, violence, murder or hatred. Where everyone is valued as an image-bearer of God and no one is marginalized.
While these desires well up from within, we also want the right to choose what is right and wrong for ourselves. We don’t want someone forcing their views on us. We want to be in command of our world. We want the authority to rule our own kingdom and judge for ourselves. We want the Kingdom without the King.
This is not new to this generation. It has been present since the garden. What masked the issue for so long was a biblical worldview that the majority of culture embraced or at least acknowledged.
Barna’s most recent research on Gen Z states the alarming statistic that only 4% of the emerging generation has a biblical world view. What that means is that young people who want social justice are not rejecting God, they don’t even know Him or that He even exists. What they may know is a dim reflection of the true King with no desire to know him more.
Our joy and privilege as people who long for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven is to help our world meet the One True King. The King from which justice and mercy flows. The author of righteousness and love. The King of compassion and empathy. The one who values life so much that he would lay down his own. The one who is making all things new again. We must help people meet the “who” before understanding the “why, how and whats” of Christianity.
In his book Making Sense of God, Tim Keller states “ In general, I’d say that the younger non-believers need to hear why Christianity makes emotional and cultural sense before they are willing to devote significant time to weighting the more traditional, rational augments for our faith.” In a post-Christian culture where over 50% of the population is lacking any sort of biblical world view, we must present a clear picture of the King before we ever preach how one should live in the kingdom.
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