What I learned from Tim Keller’s talk at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in June of 2018
I recently had the opportunity to work as the Program Director of City to City’s The Gospel and our Cities Conference. I enjoyed working alongside a wonderful organization that is doing great things. I also learned a lot from Tim Keller, who heads the organization.
I wanted to share a video from The National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast which Tim Keller spoke at in June of 2018, and some of the insights I got from his talk.
What can Christianity offer our society here in the 21st century? Tim Keller’s talk at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast addressed that question. He references the metaphor often used in the Bible - the use of salt in meat. When salt is dispersed throughout the meat, it both enhances and preserves the meat. Like salt, Jesus says that Christians should be dispersed throughout society. In order to make a difference, Christians must exist in the culture but remain different from the rest of the culture.
Tim Keller gave the example of stealing from an old woman. It could be easy to steal her purse, run away, and not get caught. Yet, we don’t do it. Why don’t we? There are two reasons he gives...two moralistic views. The first reason is that to pick on a weak person would mean that you too, are weak. This is known as a self-regarding ethic, which stems from a culture of shame and honor, where strength is important. The second reason you don’t steal from the old woman is because you choose to think about her. This is the other-regarding ethic, of which the ultimate value is love. Research shows that most people resonate with the latter. Interestingly, the moral of love comes from Christianity. So, whether you claim to be Christian or not, you have been shaped by Christianity.
Christians love others for their sake, they do not have a person vendetta. In fact, the first person to fight slavery was a bishop. He argued that slaves are humans too, and deserve to be loved. Since, they too are images of God and cannot be sold. Imago dei. In case you are unfamiliar, imago dei is a term coined by Christians, meaning “image of God.” We are all images of God, and we all have the capacity to have fellowship with Him. As a nation, we must not forget that. There are no degradations in the imago dei.
Since you were made in the image of God, it is important to stay true to yourself. God made you exactly how He wanted you to be. So, follow your own inner light, and don’t let anyone tell you what is right or wrong for you. Christians cannot “benefit” society if they are like everyone else in society. Keller’s advice is to not to live for yourself. Live for God, and live for your neighbor.
The problem at hand is in trying to form more people from our society to support these ideals. These ideals take sacrifices, such as giving up wealth and power to help the less fortunate. Another example of self-sacrifice is forgiveness. Unfortunately, we, as a society are becoming more and more incapable of producing people that can forgive. Our culture is becoming increasingly individualistic and teaches self-actualization. So, if there is no social benefit, why become a Christian? Keller leaves us with two reasons why Christianity is, and should be, seeked after:
Christianity offers communion with God and
Christianity provides us with a loving relationship (not just an opportunity to win favor).
Number 2 is my personal favorite - Christianity offers a loving relationship with God.