Is Christianity “No” or “Yes”?
Every once in a while I read something and have one of those refreshing “aha” moments. The insight is usually simple, not entirely new, but surprisingly fresh and wonderfully true!
Such was the case a few weeks ago when I read “God’s ‘Yes’ and Long Flights” by Shane Morris. It begins like this,
“Some of my most revealing discussions happen on airplanes, during long flights. They usually begin when the person imprisoned in the seat beside me asks what I do for a living.”
Well, Shane is a senior writer at the Colson Center, a Christian worldview organization. The responses of his fellow travelers vary but one question seems to appear with increasing regularity.
“So,” my fellow passengers will say, “you’re a Christian. Does that mean you are against…?” and the blank is usually filled with abortion, gay relationships, or some gender identity of recent vintage. On my most recent flight, I was asked why I oppose sex between consenting adults outside of marriage.
This leaves me in a difficult spot. I can launch into an argument for why I reject certain popular claims about bodily autonomy, the harm principle, or the conflation of subjective feelings with identity. I can start critiquing expressive individualism, and challenge my neighbor’s belief that what doesn’t hurt others is none of my business. And I have done these things. But I’ve noticed lately that all of these reactions begin by accepting my fellow passenger’s free association of Christianity with the word “no.”
That’s a great insight. In our progressive, post-Christian culture, Christianity is one giant “No” to things our neighbors deem as essential to personal happiness and fulfillment. Promiscuity, homosexuality and transgenderism are not appealing in and of themselves. The appeal is solely rooted in the conviction that they are a “yes” to human freedom and self-determination. And, in the mind of our neighbors, that makes Christianity a hateful “no” to human flourishing.
This conviction means that no matter what arguments we try to win the minds of our neighbors, the argument will not succeed. All they hear is “no”. In fact, the stronger the argument, the more compelling the case - the louder they hear the word “no”. They reject the case for the faith, not because it’s flawed, but because it all sounds like “Thou shalt not”.
If we want to win our neighbors for Christ, we are going to have to face their conviction and surprise them with the astonishing “Yes” of the Christian faith. You see, the glory of Christianity is precisely that it is the grandest, most magnificent, “yes” story in all the universe and for all eternity.
Creation itself is a stunning, mind-bending “YES” as God spoke into the eternal abyss of dark nothing and created a universe that was indescribably good: brilliant with light, exploding with beauty, gloriously wrought with infinite skill. “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork.” Every misty sunrise, every crashing wave, every rain-washed garden and towering mountain peak - it’s all “Yes”! Every dolphin surfing the waves and pelican air-riding them, every gently lumbering elephant and soaring eagle and wobbly-kneed new-born lamb is a resounding “Yes!”. It gives you shivers to think about it.
And the gospel is only better. It’s God’s gracious, saving “yes” thundered into the wicked, wretched blizzard of our rebellious, death-deserving “no”. Rebellion against the goodness and glory of God is the ultimate “No”. What the Devil presents as life-giving is, in fact, always death. Sin is a rejection of life and health and peace. Every sin is a spoken “no” to truth, “no” to beauty, “no” to honor, “no” to blessing – because every sin is “no” to God Himself.
But God was not willing to take “no” for an answer!
The Light and the Logos entered the darkness and void of this world of sin. Despised and rejected by men, Christ Jesus said “yes” to His Father and “yes” to us and gave His own life to make the Divine “Yes” the final word of history. In Jesus, sinners receive the “Yes” of full forgiveness of all their sin! We receive the “Yes” of justification – Gods’ own verdict of our righteousness, received as a free gift of faith. We are receiving the ongoing “Yes” of sanctification as the Spirit works in us what Christ has accomplished for us. One day we will be given the glory of a perfected soul and body and step into the no-mind-has-conceived beauty of everlasting life in the presence of Jesus. The gospel is a stunning “Yes” story!
So, instead of arguing with the world, what if we affirmed their hunger for “yes”? What if we surprised them a better story than anything this world can offer and invited them to enter into the glorious “Yes” of God in Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t that be a joyful conversation? Let’s practice seeing and speaking the gospel story as an infinitely good “yes” story. And let the conversations begin!
“For all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our ‘Amen’ to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 )