How in the World Should I Live?

by A. Maeve McDonald

The perennial question, how should I live out my faith as a Christian in a world that has rejected Christ? has occupied my thoughts for many years. Living in the Washington, DC area, I have been exposed to a wide variety of interpretations of what it means to live life as a Christian. I have asked other believers for their points of view and the answers I’ve received have varied quite a bit. I’ve asked questions like, are we to be counter-cultural or culturally sensitive? Are we to be relevant to the world or radically different from it? And how much in the world can we really be without being of it? These are issues that we all have to consider, not just for our own lives, but also in our churches at large. We need to ask ourselves: Are we to be radical or relevant, or somewhere in between?

The term “relevant” in the Christian context refers to the widespread effort over the last decade or two to make Christianity more relatable to younger generations (who are leaving the church in droves) by speaking more directly to their lives. More often than not, trying to be relevant to young people has led churches to mirror secular culture as opposed to presenting a counter-cultural worldview. I’ve also noticed

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that Christians who are more culturally relevant in their lifestyle share more common ground with unbelievers than Christians who live out their faith in a more radical way. The same goes for “seeker-friendly” churches that attempt to be relevant over being radical. At times, I have wondered if Christians who are more entrenched in the ways of the world are better positioned to outreach to unbelievers because they can relate to them more easily and haven’t alienated themselves as much as the more radical Christians have. 

When my husband and I had children, we began to discuss the topic of how to live in the world with a renewed sense of urgency. We asked ourselves, how can we best prepare our children for adult life in a secularizing culture? How much of the world should we expose them to and how much should we protect them from? I started to worry that we would turn them into Christian kooks in a hostile world if we were too radical, or sheltered them too much, in our parenting. I worried that if we acted “too Christian,” we would turn people off, and alienate ourselves. But then I would also worry that if we compromised too much on our biblical convictions, we wouldn’t be helping our children build a solid foundation for a faith that endures. 

It was when I actually turned to Scripture for the answers, however, that things started to become clear. The problem is, I had been getting lost down a confusing rabbit trail of thoughts and theories of my own mental construction. I was getting bogged down in the “buts,” and the “what ifs,” and the “on-the-other-hands.” Instead of going to God’s Word first, I had been looking to the world for the answers…

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