How many times have you heard that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? I don’t guess it’s a saying that is widely popularized but I’m willing to bet that everyone has heard it before. What I thought was interesting is where it originated. It was first used by a man named Saint Bernard of Clairvaux but since then it has been quoted by people like Samual Johnson, Samuel Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott and Karl Marx. Can you imagine those five people using anything in common? I mean, yes they were all authors, but they wrote on completely different topics.
Of course, semantics can change everything around, upside down and inside out. How do you define good intentions? What makes an intention good to begin with? In that case, what is good? And what is bad?
The verse for this morning is 1 Peter 1:15-16:
15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Maybe you would go a different way with this, but to me, what I think when I read this verse is that Believers are supposed to be different. That’s what the word holy means. It’s not some super-spiritual term that is beyond the grasp of a mere mortal. It simply means that people who believe in Christ are supposed to be set apart from the people who don’t believe; that our actions and lives shouldn’t mimic the lives of people who don’t believe. Our actions and lives and thoughts should mimic God because God chose us and He is set apart.
Life is a balancing act. If you lean too far to the right or to the left, you’ll fall.
One of my greatest fears is relevance. How do you balance being holy with being relevant? God left us here on Earth to accomplish a certain number of things, most of which is reaching out to people who don’t know Christ yet. The only way to communicate with culture is to speak their language–but can you maintain holiness and still be relevant when the culture you’re reaching is evil? When they rejoice in things that are shameful? When they congratulate each other for stabbing friends in the back? When they reward each other for abandoning their families?
Don’t think I’m naive, please. I’ve been in religion long enough to know that all that same behavior happens in a church too, but I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about the Bible and Christ and doing what He left us here to do.
I know my church came under fire–and is still there–for deciding to do our services the way we do. Contemporary services with modern (and sometimes secular) music. Many Christians hear that and get really upset. We’re singing a Nickelback song in church? We singing a Linkin Park song in church? How can you call yourselves holy if you listen to secular music? How can you be different if you’re acting like the world?
But what does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to be different? I think it’s taking one of those secular songs and appreciating it for what it is–music that moves people. Secular music isn’t evil; it’s a portrait of culture. And if you want to speak to your culture, you have to speak their language. The difference comes when you look at what the music is saying and realize that it’s wrong. You realize that the life it’s propogating isn’t what God has called you to. But even by knowing the song, it gives you an outlet to speak to someone who doesn’t believe the same as you do.
Are we so weak in our faith that a Nickelback song can shake it?
But here’s the flip side. Can we get to the point where relevance is all that matters? Absolutely. I’ve been in churches that are a mile wide and an inch deep. I’ve known a lot of Christians like that too. If we don’t keep our eyes on what matters — the truth — relevance can easily become a religion itself and the last thing the world needs is another religion.
We are to be holy. We are to be separate and different and peculiar and unusual.
If we want to be effective, we have to balance our methods for reaching our culture. We need to balance the message and the method. If our methods are outdated, no one will listen; if the message is dim, no one will grow or learn or even come to know Christ at all.
There is no need to balance the truth, though; truth is always relevant. It will balance itself. What needs to change is how we communicate it. And after it changes, we need to be vigilant to make sure it stays balanced because having too much or too little of either message or method will distract from the truth. And in that case, no matter how good our intentions might be, if we aren’t telling people the truth, there’s only one place that road will take them.