Why people of faith should stop just saying No

Tim Costello on a positive direction for speaking up in public

I’m tired of Christians being known for what they’re against.

Social media seems awash with messages from Christians upset about the rise of secularism and atheism, the loss of family values and, especially, gay marriage – the recent divisive issue. These are legitimate concerns but are often seen by the secular world as obsessive and narrowly moralistic.

The church brand in Australia has developed severe negative connotations …

I am proud of the clear biblical teaching on fidelity in sexual matters. In the Greco-Roman world, Christian statements on sex were profoundly linked to slavery. Masters owned the bodies of slaves and dealt with consequences by infanticide and abortion.

The Christian messages of sexual fidelity – and in Christ there is neither slave nor free, man nor woman –  were liberating for slaves and protection for women and the unborn.

But too often, religion is sadly equated by the secularists with closed-mindedness. Too often, religion is seen as a set of rules promoted by the “self-righteous.” Amid the public confusion about what Christianity represents, we are too often reduced to unattractive caricatures.

I want to see the church in Australia synonymous with justice, mercy and humility

The church brand in Australia has developed severe negative connotations, undermining our prophetic witness and relevance in the public square. We are seen to be energetically promoting the vague concept of “family values” while our vital message of justice for all, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference, is being lost.

I want to see the church in Australia synonymous with justice, mercy and humility – bringing glory to God for the sake of his kingdom and the making of disciples. I want to see churches and Christians equipped to live Micah 6:8 as effective agents of change.

I know Christians and churches are, in general, generous and caring and volunteer in greater numbers than secular groups, but perhaps they feel branded in narrow moralistic categories. They are doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly, but that narrative is buried by a dominant defensive narrative.

We can refresh the brand of Christian faith with a proactive not defensive narrative. A message centred on Jesus, who calls us to proclaim justice, mercy and humility to walk with God, which is the content of the kingdom of God. Perhaps church leaders could have a moratorium on proclaiming publicly about sex – and, particularly, homosexuality – at  least until we are clearly known as a reflection of Jesus’ love, words and deeds.

Christianity was always meant to be about love not fear, encouragement not condemnation, and justice not just moralistic rules. That’s the message we need to get across in the public square.

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