The Walls We Have Built

In the Apologetics & Outreach course that Jerram Barrs teaches at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Jerram discusses barriers we create between ourselves as Christians and the world:

1. Intimidation or fear: Are we intimidated by the culture in which we live? We look at our society and we see that much of it is deeply hostile to the Christian faith, whether that is in universities or in popular culture. If we are terrified of the people around us, afraid of the non-Christians in our community, and afraid of the cultural products of our world, the consequences are disastrous. This creates an enormous divide from each other.

2. Condemnation: A constant judging of those who are out there. “Let us say three or four of you are sitting at a table in the coffee shop any day of the week, or anywhere, and you are sitting discussing something in culture, let us say homosexuality or political leaders or candidates. How do you talk about people, how do people overhear you, and what kind of language do they hear you using? Do they hear you using the language of condemnation and of self-righteousness? What do people hear from us?” We shouldn’t delight in attacking and condemning people. It matters how I talk about the human beings involved in the issues.

3. Cultural retreat: “We can become so distressed by the world because it is so worldly, as if that should surprise us, that we try to create our own distinct evangelical culture so that we can avoid the sinful society as much as possible.” Examples of this could be Christian country clubs, Christian sports facilities, Christian teams, schools, etc. Not that these are bad things, but turning our churches into havens from the world is not what we are called to do. Christ didn’t redeem us by living in a haven that was completely retreated from the world.

4. Personal separation: The insistence that what it means for us to be holy and set apart from sinners, as the Scripture calls us to, as Jesus was, is that we must be personally separated from them, in the sense of keeping ourselves apart from them and having nothing whatsoever to do with them. This is generally a thinking that the only way we can grow in the faith and continue in the faith is by keeping ourselves personally separate from the unbelievers and the sinners around us, because of a possible “contamination.”

If we build these walls, our model of evangelism becomes incredibly unbiblical. “Do we think of evangelism as raids that we undertake for a brief moment or two, or an hour or two? We go always in groups of two or three, never alone, to make sure that we are secure. We go in groups of two of three from the church into the world, hoping that we can grab somebody and bring them back with us.” Jesus came into the world to relate to us; He challenges us to not be afraid, and to trust that our Heavenly Father would care for us and protect us. We may feel overwhelmed, but God is greater. We serve the Creator of heaven and earth.

It is easy to think that our calling is to judge everybody all the time. Even on Christian radio and television, you hear constant scorn, condemnation, criticism, and judgment of the culture and even of unbelievers by name. Our calling is not to condemn the culture in which we live, but to be merciful toward it. And it does not matter if people hate Christ, the Church, and the Gospel; we are called to love them still. We are to bless them and to pray for them. God has shown time and time again that He delights in saving people who make themselves enemies of His law, His Word, and His Son. We shouldn’t be surprised if people hate the Gospel, the Church, the faith, and us personally, because they hated Christ. But our response to them is to serve them and pray for them, to pray God’s blessing on the world.

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About Colleen Kelly

I graduated from Mizzou in May '09 with an English degree and joined staff with Veritas soon after. I'm originally from St. Louis, but love living in Columbia. Things I love: reading (anything and everything), walking, being outside, coffee, conversation, theology, exploring, saturdays, and adventures.
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