This is a tale of two kingdoms.

But they don’t occupy different territories, nor do patrolled borders lay between them. They are infused but in theory they’re immiscible, incapable of being mixed, retaining their distinct flavours while freely coexisting in the heavily mixed world today.

Two kingdoms. One is the kingdom we’re told┬áJesus told us to build ÔÇô the culture of Church and religion. And the other┬áis┬áthe kingdom He really intended for us to build.

Today, so many of us are┬áso preoccupied with maintaining a pure, orthodox version of the faith when we don’t even know what that is.

We’re historically quick to purge the impurity from our midst while pronouncing anathema on those┬áwho question our unquestionable creeds, culture and leaders. We don’t care if they’re genuinely curious or struggling.

Out of fear, we assume they’re rebellious, selfish and troublesome. Some claim to┬áworship the Bible┬ábut then refuse┬áto seek Jesus directly┬á(John 5:39-40).

Today we’re fighting over who can really speak tongues (actual languages, or some angelic utterance?), how to dress to “not stumble” (can you wear shorts to cell group?), or prescribing specific models of family (remember, Paul said singlehood was preferable!).

The tragedy is I’m only half-joking. We idolise what is good and make it our god.

But although our world is spiritually more hungry than ever, the church often turns them away.

We turn them away with our politics, or our claim to absolute truth and morality, without bothering to defend or explain it.
We turn them away when we conduct censuses of our victories, or expect larger society to feel a moral compulsion to live by standards of ancient Judaism we ourselves fail and are indifferent to.

We turn them away when we don’t even know our own Gospel, or smash them with creeds and traditional cultural norms┬ábefore inviting them to “come and see” Jesus for themselves.

In the modern world, Christianity as a worldview has lost the cultural war.

That’s the first kingdom ÔÇô the established culture and vocabulary of this religion. I’m not sure it’s the kingdom we were meant to build;┬áthe church I hold dear needs to hold much more tightly to what matters, and much more loosely to everything else.

And it’s dawned on me, the kingdom that is losing ÔÇô the┬áwhich we’re desperately trying to hold up amidst a wave of wider lawlessness ÔÇô isn’t┬áthe one Jesus spoke of.

When Jesus walked among humanity, His harshest words weren’t to those who sinned, but those who spent great time and energy calling out the sin of others. The whitewashed tombs of┬áMatthew 23:27.

I apologise if this causes┬áoffence ÔÇô the church taught me to┬áspeak the truth in love, so┬áI must┬átry. I don’t question the need for unity or submission to authority, but I think we need to step back to see how Christianity has lost its appeal.

Because in the modern world, Christianity as a worldview has lost the cultural war.┬áI know Jesus said we would always face persecution ÔÇô but it should not be for what we stand for (ill-reasoned arguments, unsympathetic positions), but for who┬áwe stand for.

Among the scientifically inclined, philosophical naturalism is dominant.┬áA growing proportion of thinkers unthinkingly echo┬áNietzsche’s famous post-Enlightenment declaration of┬á“God is dead” without understanding his larger philosophy.

I’ll try not to be crudely reductionist here ÔÇô the serious atheists would object ÔÇô but nihilism logically follows naturalism. (The issue is not with science, but with most people rejecting everything except science.)

And the truth is that that deep down, naturalist or not, many are walking the road to nihilism: When eternity is taken out of the equation, nothing actually matters.

So how can we make Christianity relevant again?

To┬áspeak life into a world trending toward meaninglessness, we Christians┬ámust first be present, respect the human condition and empathise with the struggles of others ÔÇô not bluntly┬ápush a worldview that is unrealistic and onerous to others.

We need to help the deep thinkers to consider the Gospel along┬áthe path of nihilism, rather than denying the flow of modern thought altogether and calling it “ungodly”. Such thought isn’t┬áinherently sin; we are merely ploughing the familiar paths┬áthe Teacher did in Ecclesiastes.

Bring God in and let Him guide you to truth.

When eternity is taken out of the equation, nothing actually matters.

Perhaps it’s time to embrace the concept of “God is dead”. I┬ádon’t┬ámean to suggest for a second that He doesn’t exist.

What I mean is, maybe it’s time to put aside that first kingdom, of pre-established notions of religion, and really look to establish┬áthat second kingdom: Bringing┬áJesus, and not merely shadows of Him, into the world.

If we must stand up for one thing, let it not be the minor differences inevitably tied to our human condition, cultural norms or barricading ourselves up in fear of impurity. Yes, faith is highly┬ápolitical but if others┬ámust stumble, let them personally stumble over the person of Christ ÔÇô not our politics or cultural idiosyncrasies.

We should stand unashamedly for the saving grace┬áof He┬áwho, from the Cross of Calvary, looked at the world in all its grave folly and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Truth be told, we rarely know what we’re doing. We’re here only by the grace of God. May we have the grace to consider others in the same light.