A special tension every Christian wrestles with is relevancy. How relevant should a good Christian be? Many point to 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 as a proof text for going all-in on the relevant issue. They say we can talk however the world talks, live how they live, dress how they dress, participate in the same things, etc. The opposite side touts “in the world, not of it!” and shuns anything the world does, likes, or promotes. Debate rages between the two camps, each side finding plenty of fodder to make fun of the other.
So who’s right and who’s wrong? Or does it have to be either/or?
I think both sides of the question have pros and cons to their positions. People seeking to be relevant can end up shedding off some of the harder teachings of Scriptures that clash with the culture, thus losing the great edge of truth. Those who shun the world run the risk of getting so out of touch they can’t communicate with non-Christians in a way they’ll understand.
Okay, but that doesn’t answer the question…
I think we should look more closely at that 1 Corinthians text since it stirs the pot the most. As mentioned, those in the relevant camp look to this passage as justification for mirroring the world in practically all points. Could Paul be advocating this? Perhaps Paul’s not saying he’ll act as a chameleon depending on the situation (he actually confronts Peter about that in Galatians 2), rather, I think he’s saying he will meet people on their level, learning about their belief systems, culture, and other things that make them them. But he won’t sacrifice truth or the gospel for the sake of a “cool” friendship. He stays real.
And I think the answer lies therein. Both camps have strengths and weaknesses, and maybe the best answer to the question is moderation for both parties. If we hide away from the world, how will they know the relevancy of the gospel? But if we blend so well into the culture that the only difference is we go to church, how will they know we’re real about our faith? So the tension still exists. Every Christian must decide his/her personality and how they interact with society. But all Christians must interact with society, and above all else, relevant or removed, we must be real.