This past January, I had the privilege of attending a lecture at Calvin College by author, speaker, and researcher Gabe Lyons. In his presentation, Lyons made an interesting assertion that has stimulated my thinking regarding cultural engagement.
Lyons asserted that Christians need to be provoked by culture, not offended. Far too often, according to Lyons, Christians are offended by what they see and experience in culture. And because of this offense, we often separate from society at large—living mainly in our own communities, making our own art, consuming our own media, and building our own institutions.
His challenge to all of us in attendance was to allow injustice, sin, immorality, and corruption to provoke us to action. His assertion was that the offense separates but provocation activates. Offense flees and subsequently leaves a vacuum, but provocation engages and enables redemption.
While I resonated deeply with Lyon’s call for Christians to live engaged and redemptive lives, I have to admit that this juxtaposition of provocation and offense initially sent me for a loop. As I listened to the lecture, I tried to remember another time when I had heard provocation cast in a positive light. I couldn’t think of any.
As a matter of fact, the first Scripture passage that came to mind regarding provocation was Ephesians 6:4: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (nkjv).
But is there any merit to what Lyons is saying? Does offense cause us to disengage from the culture around us? Is it possible that God wants us to be provoked rather than offended?
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