I am sure the city of Manila, in the Philippines, is a lovely place, but if we were going to vacation halfway around the world, I can think of a lot of other places I would want to go first. However, an email that went out from Marti yesterday to everyone in her address book had us stranded in Manila after being robbed of everything but our passports, and in need of $1,950 to get home. Most of you knew we had been hacked, and some of you wrote me about it, but still you wonder, and it was nice to know you were concerned.
It just goes to show how vulnerable we all are — how technology has so many advantages, but there are disadvantages that go along with those, like central control and access to information that is always in danger of being breached.
Actually, this goes for our culture as a whole. The more involved we are, culturally, the more open we are to invasion. This has been part of the reason for a sort of anti-cultural Christianity which has been popular throughout most of the twentieth century. It was this kind of thinking that always kept Christians either culturally disengaged or at least twenty to thirty years behind the times. But I believe there is a certain selfishness at work in so many of these anti-cultural movements. We’re going to protect ourselves from all the bad influences, or we’re just not going to have cell phones and computers, so they can’t get us. The problem with this: it’s hard to speak into the culture when your whole lifestyle is condemning it. That’s not Christianity, that’s a cult, and when you are a cult, most people don’t really grapple with the message you want to convey. They can’t get around how you are challenging culture, and how they would have to adopt those cultural sanctions should they choose to accept your message (if they ever do get to the message, which they rarely do).
Our job has never been to create an alternative culture on earth as much as it is to infuse the culture we have with the light, the knowledge, the love and the presence of Jesus Christ. This means we will be vulnerable to the culture just like everyone else is, but how else do you come alongside someone with the Gospel of Welcome? Hit them upside the head with the Gospel of Unwelcome?
Jesus did not escape the culture He came to. He didn’t take twelve guys and run away to the hills and set up camp. He spent the whole ministry in the towns and villages surrounded by people, walking and talking in the highways and byways, attending worship in the synagogues, debating in the marketplace, paying taxes to Caesar, and sleeping wherever He was invited in people’s homes. And the world Jesus left, after his death, resurrection and ascension, wasn’t very different from the one He came to, except that there were now a few hundred believers in it and that number was soon to rapidly escalate.
So we are in the world, and we remain vulnerable to the culture we are in. Our safety is not our primary concern; our primary concern is to love the people around us into the kingdom of God. Besides, Jesus prays for us not to be removed from the world, but to be protected from the evil one (John 17:15). If Jesus is praying for us to be protected, then to be in harm’s way is a place we might as well get used to being.