Thursday, March 19, 2015

On Being A Shrewd Christian

When we hear the word shrewd, we have a tendency to think of it only in the negative (devious, abusive, severe). Yet, in giving instructions to His followers in interacting with the world, Jesus said that we are to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16).  Additionally, in Jesus’ Parable of the Shrewd Manager, He commended the manager, not for his dishonesty, but how he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8), noting that believers often have difficulty in properly relating to the world. Jesus’ use of the word shrewd was obviously not to give a license to sin but was to encourage us to be discerning, deliberate and intentional in our dealings with those in our community who don’t know Jesus.

In bringing the Kingdom of God and its message of transformation into our community, we as believers need to understand the mindset and value systems of the world as well as the tactics of the enemy.  A community and its culture will not be changed unless people are transformed from the inside out.  How can they be transformed unless they accept and respond to the Good News? And how can they embrace it if they haven’t seen/heard it?  And how can they embrace it if they don’t like the messenger?

Most people will automatically reject a messenger’s message if they don’t want to listen to the messenger. Christians have a hard time understanding that we only have as much influence in people’s lives as they are willing to give us.  If they don’t like us (for the wrong reasons) or think very highly of us—our ideas are rejected and our ability to influence true change is lost. Any persuasion we attempt to do beyond our boundaries of influence are seen by the world as manipulative and irrelevant.

One aspect of being a shrewd Christian is understanding that the enemy seeks to reduce our circle of influence in the world so as to contain the message of Good News which can transform lives and a community.  There are many tactics the enemy employs.  I would like to briefly mention three of them:

1.      The enemy wants us to focus on doing things that may sooth our conscience but are ineffective in influencing others to repent and seek after God. We intentionally do things to offend the masses, thinking we’re taking radical stands for righteousness, when all we are really doing is pushing those away who need to hear the Good News the most. When this rejection occurs, we then like to think of ourselves as martyrs of the truth, furthering a sense of subtle self-pride.  This rejection can often be the sought-after goal rather than seeking to introduce people to a loving, holy God.

2.      At the other end of the spectrum are those that seek to avoid offending anyone. Christians will either withdraw into their ‘Christian bubble’ where all of their interactions and relationships are only with those who think and believe like them (thus, not ever running the risk of offending anyone) or the truth of God’s Word has been altered so as to embrace sin.

3.      Many Christians believe that community transformation primarily happens by passing certain laws or legislating certain moral guidelines. But this approach fails to realize that culture is a reflection of the heart—not the law.  When one focuses on the heart, the law falls into place. This was the whole emphasis of both the Old and New Testament.

What is our option as believers? To learn how to sincerely love and embrace our community with agape love (see 1 Cor. 13) while still disagreeing with someone’s sin.  We need to reexamine our motives, our strategies, our relationships so that we can be a God-honoring, shrewd follower of Christ.

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