Christians have always been a people devoted to the noble principles of God’s Word. As such they have been a principled people. Through their commitment to missions they’ve also tended to be a pragmatic people as well. So Christians have sought to balance two critical values: principles and pragmatism.
One does not have to search far to see this. Here are three examples:
At the same time, because Jesus has given us a mission, we’ve been a pragmatic people. Here are a couple of examples:
Enter 1 Peter 4:4: With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.
The New Testament era church did not engage in a host of activities, explicit or perceived, because it would compromise them on the subject of idolatry and holiness. Historian Nick Needham said this of the early Church period:
 Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, vol. 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers. (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 81–2.
This is a helpful glimpse into early Christians, living in an ungodly age, who lived out 1 Peter 4:4. To not join in or even to not give the impression of joining in, is a vital value. Greater than missional pragmatism, but interesting still missional.
In contemporary post-Christian Canada there are many past practices, residue of cultural Christianity, that we’d do well to rethink (e.g. Halloween). Likewise, as the Church faces new realities there are areas we ought not to rush into for the sake of missional relevance until we’ve seriously thought them through.
Of the latter attending a same-sex wedding is a prime example. The value to be missionally pragmatic would say to attend for the sake of loving them and building relationships. The value of principle demands no (you can read more here), for while there are many acceptable ways to minister to our homosexual friends and neighbours, to attend a wedding (which celebrates) is to take part in celebrating something which God calls evil. While we wouldn’t necessarily become unholy by attending, the act of condoning (even by perception) would go against the command in 1 Pet 4 “do not join them.”
You see, sometimes to be principled, while not being pragmatic, does actually better serve the cause of the Gospel and our mission better. For when we are seen to be humbly different, even if they malign us, we will bear a greater witness that God will use more effectively for His glorious purposes:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pe 2:12).
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.