I have an older friend who watches a lot of Youtube videos, mostly about what’s wrong with the world.
Sadly, he won’t be running out of videos anytime soon.
The issues he covers run the gamut: race relations, declining civility, gun violence, war, society’s blind adherence to political figures, over-population (he’s not sure about that one), conspiracy theories, gender dysphoria… the list goes on.
By the sounds of it, most of the content he consumes is descriptive — everything that’s wrong with everything. Not much good news.
I’ve sympathized with my friend (I’ve told him so) because I share many of his concerns. The world is indeed a broken place; to deny it would be to walk around with rose-colored glasses, or eyes closed altogether.
Yet the prescriptive part for him — what might be done to address these problems — is an open question.
A Grace-less Meeting
Recently, he mentioned how he’d been invited out to lunch by an old acquaintance. (I was initially encouraged by this, mostly because my friend doesn’t get out much. And since the guy was also active in a local church, I was hoping for some good things).
Yet as my friend described it, he wasn’t 2 bites into his sandwich before the conversation took a turn. The topics covered some of the same issues he sees regularly discussed on Youtube. Now he was fully engaged, eager to add his two cents.
Before long, he found himself quickly disillusioned. Maybe it was the pejorative tone. He couldn’t help but feel that his church friend’s disdainful words — mostly about the “crazy, leftist liberals” and “moral failures” in our country — were actually directed at people like him.
Let’s “take back the country from these godless forces” was the clear, takeaway message. Leaning more to the liberal side (politically) as my friend does, he immediately felt “on the outs.”
So what was this church guy’s prescription for all the world’s problems? Don’t vote for x candidate, vote for y. Or, as author Trevin Wax puts it, Punch left, and coddle right.
I was saddened to hear this, and I told my friend so. I tried to explain that politics — whether you lean left or right — isn’t the main issue in the kingdom of God (It’s true!)
While political causes do have value, they must be demoted — seen as secondary in importance, along with all other things, as the Apostle Paul noted — to the greater goal and implications of proclaiming “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), risen in triumph, and now reigning as the one true King.
Regrettably, self-righteousness and a lack of grace during that lunch had eclipsed the chance for genuine encouragement and fellowship in Christ — which is what my friend needed most.
The Wrong Diagnosis
The story goes that GK Chesterton once took pen in hand to reply to a local newspaper’s polling question, “What is wrong with the world today?” Expecting a long, erudite response from the great thinker, the editors instead received this: “What is wrong with the world today? I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.”
In an age of growing pragmatism, Chesterton’s diagnosis was spot-on. It remains so today. In a few words, it sweeps away our default approach: we want to change our circumstances, but God wants to change our hearts.
Yet for many believers and ministries today, the problem is primarily “out there.” Our own struggle with sin — and how we change through daily cleansing, forgiveness, and imputed righteousness in Jesus —isn’t the main part of the conversation.
And yet Scripture is clear: it’s the sin in our own hearts — as Chesterton knew — that creates our greatest need (see Matt. 15:19,20).
Popularly expressed in the idols of political power, nationalism, and self-worship, it’s sin that keeps us from loving God and our neighbors well. Here is the root of so many of our (and the world’s) problems.
When we miss this truth, we end up running to inadequate solutions — other “gospels” (Gal. 1:6–9) — that side-step the real issue of misplaced loves and false worship in our own hearts. We miss the only true cure: gracious love, in the person of Jesus.
What about your Website?
In part one, we asked this about your website:
“Does it address real struggles, and seek to meet people where they’re at — instead of assuming we know, or making them pass some kind of knowledge test to enter our “club?”
Too often, as my friend experienced, the answers we give obscure Christ to a hurting world. If that’s your norm, it’s going to flow into your website.
Instead of the gracious character of God — that he’s “close to the broken-hearted” (Ps. 34:18 ) — we’ll offer a demanding god in our own image.
Instead of “confess your sins to one another, pray that you might be healed,” (James 5:16), we’ll confess everyone else’s sin — even though judgment should begin with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17)
Instead of works of service, we’ll aim for power plays (“Let us sit at your right hand” See Mk. 10:37) – recognition and status.
No wonder so many today are left to conclude: “Those Christians are all self-righteous frauds; they’re no different from anyone else.”
In light of this, it’s critical that our websites send the right message.
Our aim should be to produce inviting, grace-filled content (blogs, sermons, podcasts, etc.) that fleshes out truly good news, keeping a heart-and-Christ-centered focus central.
(By the way, for an insightful Youtube message on these very things, see Arguing About Politics, by Tim Keller).
All the important “one another” passages of Scripture that envision how we are to relate — such as “love one another, encourage one another, build one another up, etc.” will only truly flow when the Gospel is kept central, and faith is energized. Only then will we be the “aroma of grace” that others breathe in.
It’s the only thing that will attract a hurting world to Jesus (and to us!)
May God give us the grace to be the arms and legs and heart of Christ, and the sweet “aroma of grace” that our world so desperately needs!