Is it possible to turn an obscene rap song into a Gospel conversation? I learned the answer recently. Some of my co-workers began playing satellite radio featuring performers such as Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dog, Lil Wayne and Drake. Thus began my crash course (emphasis on “crash”), in uncensored rap, where there is probably more profanity, degradation of women and vulgarity per square minute than at your friendly neighborhood bar.
I have challenged us to shine the light of Christ where it is needed most. There are risks in accepting this challenge, as my workplace experience illustrated. One reader posed a question that more Christians should be asking: “How do I balance making no provision for my flesh and going to where the lost are to reach them?”
Seeking close contact with non-Christians friends will present potential temptations. These risks can be turned into advantages that will guard our hearts and at the same time cause our light to shine brightly. Here are three steps to take.
The command to “make no provision for the flesh,” (Romans 13:14) is another way of saying, “Don’t provide yourself with a plan to sin.” So part of the solution is to do the opposite; make a plan to resist. Ask a trusted Christian friend to pray for your areas of weakness and ask you regularly how you are progressing. Even better, each of you begin bridge building to non-Christians, and pray for and hold each other accountable.
Also keep in mind the high cost of compromise. Getting a buzz at the restaurant or using crass language may win a shallow acceptance, but will build a barrier to respect. Most non-Christians easily recognize compromising behavior in Christians for what it is. They don’t need more friends who do as they do. A quiet, humble decision not to participate establishes a unique credibility. We cannot afford to surrender that distinctive.
Concentrate on building friendship, not on pleasing self.
In keeping with the principle in Romans 15:1, we must focus on serving others, not pleasing ourselves. Understanding our non-Christian friends must be more important to us than our own momentary pleasure. Focusing on their well being should crowd out temptation.
As with Jesus, our friendships must be unconditional. Jesus miraculously fed many hungry, healed many sick and gave sight to many blind. Most of those people never put their reliance on Him as their Messiah. Knowing that, He still gave them His time, attention and blessing.
Luke 15:1 says of Jesus, “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to listen to Him.” What was it about Jesus that attracted sinners to Him? Jesus’ critics give a clue in the next verse: “The Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus not only ate with sinners, but apparently extended hospitality to them as well. This is implied by the phrase “receives sinners,” as in a companion passage (Luke 19:5-6), in which Zaccheus “receives” Jesus to his house to eat. In Eastern culture, then as now, eating together was an unhurried practice of personal fellowship. I think that Jesus genuinely enjoyed the company of sinners, as we should.
Speak truth in creative ways.
Notice also that sinners went near “to listen to him.” We know from other recorded encounters that when Jesus spoke to sinners, He told them the truth about their sin. He did not try to win favor by pretending that they were good the way they were. But He did not nag them either. Nagging people about their sin is useless moralizing. Jesus’ purpose is transformation.
When talking with sinners, Jesus spoke truth in unexpected ways. He asked thought provoking questions or make provocative statements that led them to face themselves and think. As I listened to the uncensored rap at work, I began to wonder how Nicki Minaj might assist me in following Jesus’ example. After one of her especially lewd numbers, I turned to a co-worker and asked, “Would you write down the words to that for me?” The discussion that followed will be in the next post.