I once heard Tim Timmons relate a story about his encounter with "the enemy." At the time, Timmons was pastoring one of the largest churches in SoCal, South Coast Community Church in Irvine. He went to his tennis club for a scheduled match, but when his opponent didn't show up, another was arranged for him. The men introduced themselves and headed to their respective lines to warm up. Suddenly, the man asked, "What's your name again?" "Timmons. Tim Timmons." "The pastor?" the man asked with astonishment. Then he moved to the net, jabbing his finger into Timmons' face. "Do you know who I am?" "Should I?" Timmons retorted. The man smirked. "I'm the porno king of Orange County! What do you think of that?" Timmons could tell the man was waiting for him to pull out a big, black Bible and start thumping him with it. Instead he pointed his finger into the man's face and said, "Let me ask you something. Can you play tennis?" The man gulped and nodded. "Then get back there and let's play!" After the match (a match won by Timmons), the man approached him and asked, "What time are your services on Sunday?" The man began attending and six months later, placed faith in Christ and retired from the pornography business.
Seldom will our encounters have such a happy ending. Nevertheless, this story illustrates a vital component of cultural dialogue -- an element that Christians often overlook.
Andy Crouch, in an excellent piece entitled Furrowed Brows Inc., bemoaned the casualties of war:
Not long ago I attended a strategy session for the culture war.
Participants examined the decline of marriage, the cheapening and flattening of human sexuality into contextless pleasure, the exploitation and destruction of unborn human beings. Speeches were given. Brows were furrowed. Resolutions were made.
War, I was reminded, does terrible things to the warriors.
In the room were veterans of a conflict that has simmered for decades, with few victories for the conservative side. All were earnestly committed to the cause. And most, to be blunt, were not having a very good time.
...many lieutenants in this war ...bear countenances etched with some combination of depression and derision. It is hard to believe someone who speaks of love through clenched teeth. I would not have wanted to bring a gay friend, or even just a committed Democrat, into that room.
Scripture does not paint a rosy picture of ensuing ages. "In the last days," the apostle Paul wrote, "grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
Yet amidst this death and degeneracy, Christians are called to shine. “In this world ye shall have tribulations," Jesus said. "But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV). Maybe the most vital component of our end times arsenal is this "good cheer."
Let's face it, saints: What we've lost in the culture wars is our joy, our cheer, our dance-until-dawn exuberance. So the world's going to hell in a handbasket. Somehow, we're called to stay above the fray; to lend a hand, to love, to laugh.
Jesus assaulted the culture, not through boycotts, angry rants or tirades, but through mirth, grace and winsome generosity. Instead of thumping the reprobates with our large print KJV's, perhaps we're called to pull out the racket and stroke a few aces. Crouch again:
...everywhere Jesus went, life blossomed. The sick were healed, lepers were touched, daughters and sons were plucked from the mouth of the grave. Jesus left behind him a trail of leaps and laughter, reunited families, and terrific wine, as well as dumbfounded synagogue leaders, uneasy monarchs, and sleepless procurators. His witness against violence, amidst a culture in rebellion against the good, was neither withdrawal nor war. It was simply life: abundant, just, generous life. And, ultimately, a willingness to let the enemies of life do their worst, confident that even death could not extinguish the abundant life of God.
Maybe it's time we reexamine our tactics, take an inventory of our casualties, put away our Bibles and pull out the tennis racket. It's not enough to have our theological ducks in a row and our evangelistic arsenal aimed and ready. In this war, a smile is quite nuclear. Because sometimes what's won is not as critical as what's lost.