Examining the Coexist Culture
There’s been an explosion of them, slapped on the bumpers of electric cars parked outside of Whole Foods, Starbucks, or that Yoga Studio downtown. I admit when I first saw the bumper sticker “Coexist,” I felt squeamish. I suppose it was seeing my Lord’s cross not only saddled up next to the Islam, Pacifism, Witchcraft, Gay rights, and Taoism symbols, but coming in last on the list.
The message of Coexist culture is gaining popularity amongst millennials not only for it’s message of tolerance, but that tolerance equals acceptance. One of the enemies greatest tools in preventing the gospel from being shared is keeping Christians nestled in, silent, and playing agreeably at the PC (Political Correctness) Park; a park where truth is twisted into slippery slides, churches are split on seesaw doctrines, and worship has become less about exalting God and more about amusing ourselves. The truth is, politically-correct Christianity is spiritually- defect Christianity.
The Coexist message is not without its pitfalls. It sends the message that all religions are equal and true. Truth no longer holds inherent supremacy, but becomes individualistic and subjective in nature: my truth is different from your truth. It also lends itself to the ideology to Coexist peacefully, we must quietly nestle in and not attempt to change the opinions of those around us - to do so would indicate intolerance and bigotry.
How do we stand up and stand out in a society which attempts to silence Christians and force them into conformity? I believe the answers can be found by examining the ministry of Jesus Christ and the first church. We risk ridicule or being labeled a bigot, whereas they risked their lives.
The first step is by obeying Jesus’ commandments.
“…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37b-39, English Standard Version)
Who is our neighbor? Our neighbors are the very people practicing the religions listed on the Coexist bumper sticker. We are called to love them, and with love there is no room for hate, bigotry, or pride. If we do not first point our hearts and minds toward loving God and others, we won’t honor God and our message will return void.
Once we know our hearts and minds are centered on our love for God and others and not out of a place of pride, we must next meet the physical needs of those around us. Jesus Christ and the first church always met the physical needs of those they ministered to first. When we meet the physical needs, it is a spiritual experience and builds trust with someone you are ministering to. Jesus fed the five thousand, healed the blind, deaf and sick, mourned with those who mourned. We see the same with the first century church. They took care of the widows and orphans, ministered to the sick, and fed the hungry. We are called to be the light in the darkness; it is through the giving of our time, attention, and resources we are able to do this.
After meeting the physical needs, we are to share the good news of redemption. The first church loved God and their neighbors - the Samaritans, Baal worshippers, Romans, and Jewish zealots -so much that they risked their lives in sharing the gospel. We must remember Jesus Christ died for the Hindus, Muslims, and New Agers. He died for all mankind and it is up to us to let them know. In Philippians Paul writes, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We must put others before ourselves, by risking our reputation on Jesus Christ. There is no guarantee the one your ministering to will accept it. It hurts to hear, “I’m not ready to accept Jesus,” when your heart is in the right place.
We must understand Christianity is exclusive to those who believe.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV)
God promises us an uneasy life as Christians, by calling us to stand up and stand out from the heap.
I don’t feel squeamish when I see the Coexist bumper sticker anymore; it’s become as common as the Starbucks logo. I’d love to redesign it though. I’d make the other symbols shadowed by bright beams shooting from my Lord’s cross… that’s the artist in me. I suppose the logo was designed by an artist with good intentions toward peace.
“Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, ESV)
I think the next time I drive up beside someone with Coexist on their bumper, I might just roll down my window, signal for them to do the same, and yell out “Hello Neighbor! Mine’s the cross, what’s your sign?"
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.