How Christians Can Go Beyond The ‘Culture War’ – Part 2
Step 2: Resonate
Understand the underlying desires that make them hold their view
Once you’ve understood their position, you’re now ready for the next step: resonating with their viewpoint. The gospel doesn’t just challenge a culture, it also connects with it:
Resonating means feeling the God-given ‘existential cry’ behind the other person’s position – and understanding why their position appeals to them.
What fundamental desire leads them to hold the position they do?
What is its ‘storyline’ about reality? (E.g. the storyline of the pro-SSM supporters was one of an oppressed minority being given equality.)
What makes that storyline so attractive?
Why would I want this message to be true or real?
You know you’ve done a good in resonating when you feel the emotional burden of their position. When your friend says – yes, you’ve got it, that’s it! – then you’ve resonated well. Now they will want to know how you’re going to answer their objection. They’re ready to hear from you.
As Chan points out: Try to dig a deeper hole than the hole your friend dug for you so that your friend will be thinking, ‘I wonder how they’re going to find their way out of this!“
Up until now, you haven’t challenged the other person’s point of view. You’ve simply understood them, and felt the emotional attractiveness of their position. If you’ve done this well, chances are your friend will now be much be open to the next step: challenging their position
Step 3: Challenge
Only now do you challenge their point of view, by asking some tough questions:
How is their message deficient?
What is lacking?
Can it deliver the happy ending that its chasing?
Or how is the message dissonant? What is clashing? Does it have messages that can’t be true at the same time?
Notice this is similar to the standard ‘culture war’ approach, but this only takes place after you’ve understood your friend’s position. Not only does this minimise misunderstandings (you’re responding to their actual point of view), but the emotional temperature of the conversation is likely to be lower as well: people are more willing to listen after they’ve first been heard.
But your job isn’t completed when you’ve shown the deficiency of their point of view. Your next job is to show how the gospel answers their deep existential cry in a way that nothing else can.
Step 4: Show How Jesus Fulfils Their storyline
That is, how Jesus is the better solution to their cry for meaning, purpose and justice.
Everyone wants a happy ending to life. That’s why people get so passionate about politics, economics and other social issues. However, only the gospel can provide the ultimate happy ending that people are really searching for. Jesus is the fulfillment of their God-given existential cry.
And we can show them that.
So for example, to the pro-choice activist living out the storyline of freedom and equality, only Jesus provides the acceptance and freedom that no right to abortion could ever provide. To the neo-Marxist dreaming of a world without poverty, only Jesus promises a world without suffering – and a world without end.
Jesus is the perfect answer to their deepest hopes and dreams.
The gospel is the answer our friends really want, but don’t know it (yet).
All our non-Christian friends have an internal God given longing: a longing that life be just, meaningful and fair. They might not say it out loud, but that’s the way they live. And so, if we can show our friends how despite what they say, deep down they really want there to be a rich, meaningful, transcendent reality, we can begin to show them how God is the answer to their deepest need.
And the opportunities for us to do this will only grow. Let’s pray we’re ready for them.
Akos Balogh is a Christ-follower, husband, father, blogger. And the Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition Australia. In his previous life, he worked as a campus Chaplain, helping broken people get to know Jesus, and worked as a military Aerospace Engineer, fixing broken aeroplanes. This article is from his blog site.