I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
Unless we cloister ourselves in community with fellow believers, the decision to follow Jesus likely places us in the minority among family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I also venture it separates us from the majority of “census Christians”—people who identify with the Church, participate in its rituals and rites of passage, and embrace its principles without making their practice top priority. I’ll go further still, suggesting we who’ve learned to reconcile our faith and individuality, whether that’s sexual orientation or personal worldview, constitute a minority within the minority of practicing Christians.
One of the more common side effects of feeling outnumbered is reluctance to reveal what distinguishes us from the majority. This minority mentality is a basic survival strategy often framed as “fitting in.” In our case, however, a dangerously thin line divides discretion from shame. Often it’s so quickly and easily crossed that once we’re on the other side we recast hesitance to own our faith as consideration for those who neither share nor understand it. “I don’t want to offend anyone,” we say, camouflaging our shame in faux kindness. In the final analysis, however, nothing could be more offensive to non-believers—whether or not they realize it—than permitting embarrassment and social insecurity to stifle our witness. (To fully understand this, I strongly encourage spending five minutes with the video below. It’s by far the best argument for Christian candor I’ve ever heard.)
A City on a Hill
The Adversary has preyed on human vulnerability to peer pressure from Day One. Jesus clearly anticipated this strategy, which is why He stressed the importance of openly expressing our faith in all phases of life. “You are the light of the world,” He tells us in Matthew 5.14. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” In other words, when God illuminates our lives, nothing—not even ill advised shame—can shutter His presence. It’s obvious for all to see. People may not recognize it for what it is. But if we’re truly intent on expressing God’s love and acceptance, they can’t help but notice we’re different. Like a city on a hill, we can be seen from miles away and all directions. So shameful urges to hide God’s light are useless deceptions we’re wise to ignore.
“I’m not ashamed of the gospel, because it’s God’s power of salvation to everyone who believes,” Paul writes to the Romans. There’s a marvelous tension in this declaration that leaves no doubt how he regards the question of social conformity versus spiritual candor. Rather than view it from the perspective of what non-believers will think of him, his sole concern is what he thinks of non-believers. He has something of supreme value to offer them—the power of God’s grace. He’s so convinced God’s acceptance of them trumps their acceptance of him his enthusiasm for the gospel makes him brazenly shameless.
Paul builds up to this with an earlier thought: “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” (Romans 1.14) That pretty much rules out any exceptions. People of all persuasions and levels of sophistication look the same to him, and he has no qualms about treating them the same. We’re no less obligated. No matter whom we’re with—friends or strangers, Christians or non-Christians, smart people or silly ones—it’s our responsibility to convey God’s saving power in word and deed. Hebrews 2.1-3 advises us to pay careful attention to the gospel we’ve heard “so that we do not drift away,” asking if we don’t take its message to heart, “how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” When minority mentality persuades us to shy away from shining God’s light, we ignore all we’ve learned and experienced through Christ. We owe it to God, others, and ourselves to be shameless.
(Tomorrow: Authority Figures)