Daniel Craig, the English actor, has played James Bond since 2006 and he can do just about anything in a tuxedo. Tuxedo’s however, were not designed for brawls and saving the world, rather they’re more suitable for semi-formal evening events like dinners, charity fundraisers and award ceremonies. But then again, James Bond is a fictional character and even if he wore a tux to the gym, he’d still be able to have a great workout and save the world.
Christianity, on the other hand, is not fiction, but the reality in the western world is that churches have been declining for decades. It’s not surprising. We have become masters of dressing up the Gospel in the latest fashions and now we’re running the race marked out for us in a tuxedo. There’s nothing wrong with looking good, but Christianity becomes clumsy when it’s dressed up to be cool. It becomes unattractive when its purpose is simply to entertain the crowds that show up. And the life-changing message of Christianity is reduced to mere rhetoric when it’s massaged to make people feel good about themselves.
I believe the author of Hebrews offers a way forward for the modern church and gives Believers the key to finishing the race:
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… (Heb. 12:1-2)
This passage draws a parallel between an athlete in a footrace and the Christian life. In the Greco-Roman world, athletes would actually compete in their birthday suits — they would run naked and carry nothing extra in the race. Likewise, Christians should aim to run the race of faith without any extra weights or distractions. While technology can be a wonderful asset for Christianity, it can easily become a crippling distraction. The way forward in a postmodern post-Christian culture is not in flashy websites, streamlined service orders, electronic prayer request booths, smoke-machines and light shows, but rather in the courage to be the church in its most authentic and simple form: incarnating the love of Jesus in a broken world. Jesus is the raw and untamed essence of the Gospel story. He is enough and doesn’t need any extravagant ad-on’s.
If we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we need to take off the tuxedo because it’s not a necessary garb for Christianity even in the twenty-first century. As the Church throws off its bells and whistles the Gospel will have room to breathe and the message of Jesus will capture the heart of humanity once again. The fact remains that to this day the Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” and the last time I looked, the power of God worked just fine, even without a tuxedo (Rom. 1:16).