One of the author- pastors I admire is Tim Keller, pastor or Redeemer Presbyterian church in Manhattan, N.Y. He has had an amazing impact on the secular minded residents of that city. He was interviewed by ABC news journalist, Christiane Amanpour on ABC’s “This Week” aired on Easter Sunday. He agreed with Amanpour that secularism and religiosity are both growing in our culture. Keller made this observation. “What’s happening is secularism and devout religion is growing together. And what’s going away is the kind of ‘mushy middle,’ where people are just part of the synagogue, the mosque or the church because it’s expected. So what’s actually happening is polarization.” I would like to make a few observations about this very perceptive insight regarding us, wild men, as it relates to this polarization.
First, the need to move away from “the mushy middle”. It seems to me that with the threat of Islam in our culture, along with other growing expression of faith, Christians are being forced to think through and reexamine their faith and practice. We are no longer able to take our faith for granted in a pluralistic culture. We cannot afford to be lazy in our thinking nor asleep in our spirit, thereby being a part of the mushy middle. We have to be awake and alert. Paul challenges us in Romans 13:11-ff, “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing” (The Message). God is calling men to be clear in their thinking and deeply alive in their spirit. God is pouring out his grace so that we might be transformed and renewed for such a time as this. It will take renewed minds and awakened souls.
Secondly, it critical that in our deeper commitment to Jesus and the gospel that we engage in civil discourse. The decline of civility in our culture is alarming. As men, we need to be concerned that we are not contributing to the polarization that is occurring. The church in our day has lost a lot of credibility because followers of Jesus have been too closely identified with a type of politics or some of the scandals that have happened in the last years. I like to think that Jesus and his kingdom are part of a “third way.” I keep reminding myself that I am one who desires to “humbly and lovingly follow Jesus.” I pray every day that “his kingdom would come” and that ” his will might be done here on earth and it is in heaven.” I know for myself that I have to keep my focus on Jesus and his kingdom or else I get discouraged by cultural conditions and become negative. My focus on Jesus helps keep my positive and hopeful. Wild men can be agents of loving and caring dialogue in our day.
Thirdly, I agree with Keller that our focus should be on serving others. I really identify with his comment that “I’m loved by God but I’m a sinner.” There needs to be a humility and graciousness about the way we express our faith and the way we treat others, especially in such a skeptical culture. Listen again to the advise of Paul found in Col 4:5-6. “Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (The Message). My goal is to be a servant of Jesus, desiring to see beyond the difference in opinions and lifestyle. A wild man in my opinion is secure in his identity in Jesus, allowing him to be open to others, giving them space to be who they are. There is a desperate need to our day for men to practice “hospitablity” that welcomes the other, no matter what they believe or what their lifestyle might be.