A friend called me this week with a few questions about a Bible study app that she and her child were doing together. It is popular and very well done. But, there were a few flags in terms of what was taught, or rather, what was not taught. She just had a bit of a catch about some points of theology that were omitted rather than addressed.
There are some popular television shows called Black-ish and Mixed-ish. Truthfully, I’ve not seen either one, but I understand the premise has to do with children who are not fully one race or another and the cultural issues they have with their identity.
I think Christians have some issues in our culture as well. It is less common to take firm positions on theology today because we feel the need to blend well with our culture.
Christian-ish seems to describe a lot of God’s people today.
Confident or Christian-ish?
It’s difficult for people to navigate their faith in a world where the “correct” position is often an “ishy” position. In other words, it’s not fully the truth, but it’s not untruthful either.
Is it a good idea to position ourselves as people who are confidently Christian, or is Christian-ish a better way? Do we catch more flies with honey than vinegar?
Yes, if you want to catch insects.
But what if the game is baseball?
An outfielder is supposed to catch flies as well, but honey and vinegar have nothing to do with his job. So, the right answer involves understanding which game we are playing. We need to figure out if we ought to be catching bugs or baseballs.
The flies-and-honey saying is about popularity. We will catch more insects if we put together a mixture that sweetens the truth just a bit. So, we edit the Bible stories with a happier ending and leave out some of the tougher parts. We teach that God loves everyone, which is true, but we might choose to omit the Bible verses that point out the fact that God will judge everyone as well.
The problem is, bugs are pretty easy to squish. Faith based on partial truth might not hold up well under pressure.
The “flies” in baseball are really a better analogy for evangelism.
An outfielder knows that, if he drops the ball, it might cost a bunch of people the win. There isn’t a very large margin for error. An outfielder needs to know the entire field to do his job. There are other players, walls, wind, and the glare of the sun that have to be factored in. The whole truth of Scripture isn’t as easy to present or accept—but understanding the game and learning to play it well makes all the difference.
Catching baseballs requires a lot more effort than catching bugs, but baseballs are almost impossible to squish.
Christian-ish is a blended faith
The word Christian-ish describes a person who wants to blend the rules of their faith with other things.
It is easy to want to be Christian-ish because that kind of faith doesn’t usually offend, and we are less likely to be called narrow-minded.
But, Christian-ish isn’t a pure faith.
Most importantly, Christian-ish is not an option the Bible can support.
Truth-ish isn’t an option.
Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
Rewriting the rules of Scripture to try to make them “sweeter sounding” is not effective evangelism. God’s rules are “righteous,” and it is the sum total of Scripture that is the whole truth.
Paul told the early Christians in Ephesus “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Christian-ish might suggest we blend biblical truth with what the culture believes is true. Paul taught the early church not to alter the truth because our faith needs to “grow up in every way.” We can’t soften the truth so Paul said we needed to soften our delivery of the truth.
We need to speak God’s word motivated by his love.
The Mixed-ish Samaritans
Jesus traveled through Samaria one day and stopped to get water at Jacob’s well.
The Samaritans were considered “mixed-ish” in Jesus’ day. Many were both Jew and Gentile, genetically and spiritually.
The woman was surprised when Jesus spoke to her. John 4:9 says, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” But, Jesus wasn’t interested in the woman’s “genetics.” He was interested in her soul.
So he led her to understand the truth about her identity with God, which had nothing to do with cultural perceptions. He told her that he wanted to give her and her family the water that would “become in [them] a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
Jesus then told the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).
I think Jesus would tell our Christian-ish culture the exact same thing.
Pure truth in worship
God is looking for true worshippers who will worship in spirit and truth.
Are we worshipping the God of the universe or a version of God that seems more acceptable to people?
Do we worship as we are directed by others or as we are led by the Holy Spirit within?
Are we learning truth or a “sweetened” version of the truth?
Going forward, we will all need to listen to what is said, and especially to what is not said, to determine if we are receiving a message that is Christian or Christian-ish. We might need to take every message back to God’s word to decide if it was true or “kinda” true.
And, when we want to share God’s word with others, we will need to share the pure truth, with pure love. We want to bring people to heaven who have matured into strong, “unsquishable” believers.
Playing the right game matters
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The game is not about catching insects with sweeter words; it’s about catching baseballs with truth and talent.
And playing the right game matters eternally.
Christian-ish seems like a sweeter, more popular way to evangelize, but it’s a game played on the wrong field. And “no one comes to the Father” through partial truth. His word is “the truth” that leads to “the life.”
Let’s all make sure we are trying to catch the right “flies” today using the right methods.
The game is clear—and the final score matters forever.