Gospel is not for sale

One of the characteristics of a Postmodern culture is the supreme importance of friendship.  Postmodernism denies the existence of truth. Instead truth is defined by one’s circle of friends. Since universal truth (something for all people in all times) does not exist, truth is nothing more than the operating rules for a given group (something for this people at this time). A circle of friends is more important than any supposed “timeless” truth. So whatever “works for us” is the truth of the day.

We can evaluate our Postmodern thinking by watching how we treat friends in contrast to non-friends. We might be critical of the actions of one person but insist on understanding for a friend going through the same thing. We might cringe inwardly at one person’s complaint about a job but listen patiently to a friend’s whining. We might be callous about the very real pain of a stranger, but savagely defend a friend in need of emergency help. The list could go on and on, as it does on any number of TV sitcoms and even dramas highlighting a small circle of ... friends.

The problem of favoritism is an ancient one, of course, but it seems to be made more prominent by our truthless culture. Moses warned Israel about being “partial to the poor” and “deferring to the great” (Leviticus 19:15). James wrote about “personal favoritism” (2:1) and “showing partiality” (2:9). We treat our friends, however we choose them, differently.

Rare is the parent who sides with the teacher over a snippy daughter or who marches his shoplifting son to the store for apologies and restitution. While we in the Christian community pay lip service to “tough love,” we quickly wilt when a friend needs a good dose of truth kindly spoken. Friendship outweighs truth and transforms “tough” into “sticky,” the melted candy bar of the Spirit’s fruit.

Postmodern friendships make us better at confronting confronters. Confronters are intolerant and unloving. Confronters drive people away. Confronters give the gospel and the church a bad name. Confronters are judgmental and not like Jesus. While we need to confront in love, the postmodern trend makes the enemy of our friend our enemy as well.

The antidote is not a swing toward harshness. We are challenged to treat everyone as the same neighbor. This has never been easy, but considering the culture, we all may have to concentrate a bit more. We cannot afford to let friendship define truth. The gospel is not for sale at any price, even at the cost of a friend.

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