“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” ~ the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22
A few weeks ago – and a day apart – two of the most influential Christians in 2018 stood before two of the most influential audiences in our culture and proclaimed with conviction that our society needs the God revealed in Jesus Christ now more than ever.
What’s fascinating though is that their presentations could not have been any more different.
On the one hand, stood Chris Pratt on June 18th in Los Angeles, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors (and you can take that any way you choose: his looks, his popularity or his success – Mr. Star-Lord is on a roll.) In his acceptance speech for winning this years MTV “Generation” Award, Pratt stood before millions of adoring fans looking on, and shared with them in a 4-minute speech nine of his top tips for living. (You can view it here.) He began comically. “#1 – “Breathe. If you don’t you’ll suffocate.” But then came #2. “You have a soul. Be careful with it.”
Number 3 was: “Don’t be a turd. If you’re strong be a protector. If you’re smart, be a humble influencer.” (The kids in the crowd went delirious, and screamed their millennial heads off, having no idea what a ‘humble influencer’ was.)
Number 4 was how to give dog medicine, which received laughter that segued into number 5: “It’s doesn’t matter what it is – earn it.”
And then Chris dropped the G-bomb on his audience, which no doubt, sent MTV’s control room engineers scrambling to locate the censor-button. But too late.
Number 6: “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.”
Just as the engineers were on the phone talking to their bosses, Chris then threw out a comical, albeit gross, description of how to poop at a party (and yes, he used the word poop.)
Believing they were safe, the engineers put down the phone, only to have Chris empty both barrels on them.
Number 8: “Learn to pray. It’s easy and it’s good for your soul.”
More scrambling, but by now it was too late.
Number 9: “People will tell you you’re perfect just the way you are. You’re not. But there is a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.”
He walked off stage to thunderous applause.
Hold that thought.
“God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.” ~ Chris Pratt
The next morning, Dr. Tim Keller, one of the most respected Christian pastors and writers today, stood in Westminster Hall, in London, to address an assembly of British politicians attending the annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. (You can view it here.) In a brisk 25 minute devotion, Keller answered the question: What can Christianity offer our society in the 21st century?
In his talk, Keller took his listeners on a dazzling sweep of Christian history and philosophy, freely quoting from historians, scholars and thinkers, in support of his contention that modern culture is morally incoherent today because it has abandoned Christian thought and values. (He did not use the word poop.)
Why is modern culture morally incoherent? Because, Keller said, “On the one hand, we have the highest moral values of any culture in history. We believe in the equality of every single human being. We believe that we should be seeking justice for every class, for every nationality, for every race. We believe in alleviating suffering and hunger for every person on the face of the earth…”
Then the incoherence.
“…On the other hand, modern culture tells you that all moral value is socially constructed or may be the product of our evolutionary biology. That all moral value is basically a subjective preference. And so…we have these high moral ideals, but we don’t have the moral sources to support them. We say, ‘Look at these ideals!’ and yet over here we say, ‘But really moral values are all relative.’”
We tell young people today to work for justice and equality, yet at the same time urge them to follow their own inner light, and don’t let anyone tell you what’s right and wrong, because you decide that for yourself.
But to work for justice requires self-sacrifice, Keller argues. Yet the philosophy of modern culture can only produce self-asserters and self-actualizers, not self-deniers.
For that, people must be drilled in the moral worldview of the Christian gospel.
What we need in our society, Keller urged, are “millions of people who’ve been shaped by the self-giving of Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Paul in writing to the church in Corinth explained to his readers that when it came to sharing his faith with others, his strategy was to “become all things to all men”. In other words, he would look at his audience, and then adjust his message in such a way that his listeners would be able to hear and understand him. What we heard in Mr. Pratt and Dr. Keller, speaking a day apart and half a world away from each other, was a perfect illustration of this principle at work.
“What we need in our society are millions of people who’ve been shaped by the self-giving of Jesus Christ.” ~ Tim Keller
Here were two audiences that couldn’t have been any more different, yet united in a common need – the need for grace, forgiveness and a relationship with their Maker. Two speakers stood before them, with messages that couldn’t have been any more different. And yet…these two messages actually pointed in the same eternal direction. Each man was uniquely suited for their audience. It’s doubtful that they could have traded places. Yet each man did what he was asked to do, with Spirit-led brilliance (all pooping aside.)
You might think it a reach to dare place Pratt’s words on the same level with Keller’s. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a soul won in a day. He took the time that was given him, and the audience placed before him, and with (arguably) more courage than Keller needed for his presentation, defied the self-serving, self-worshiping kingdom of Hollywood and MTV by pointing to far more important kingdom.
Our culture desperately needs the Jesus which Christians worship. Would that we Christians could summon the courage and creativity to speak to those in our orbit of influence as these two men did.