Nuance may be defined as “a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.” Combine that term within the Christian worldview and get Christian nuance, a position that is more than some can bear. In fact, Christian nuance may seem so heavy that some may question the faith of the Christian walking in that world.
Yet, other Christians understand, especially when dealing with doctrine, that Nuance is Necessary to be careful not to work so hard to avoid one mistake only to fall into another. The same nuance applies to Christian activities.
Of course, the concerned Christian may ask how another Christian can participate in certain events with unbelievers. They often draw a black-and-white line of demarcation. A line that does not account for the sinful world in which every Christian lives. A line that often stops them from evaluating their own sins and potential nuance. A line that unfairly lumps a Christian in with unbelievers as if there is no difference in the Christian’s words, actions, and beliefs.
But maybe, just maybe, the overly concerned Christian needs a lesson in empathy that drives him to sorrow and anguish.
The Apostle Paul shared his own deep empathy for his unbelieving Jewish brothers. He shared his intense feelings “that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood” (Rom. 9:2-3, HCSB).
Paul held these feelings without compromising the gospel. Instead, he lived in the unbelieving world attempting to be all things to all people in order to win them to Jesus (1 Cor. 9:22). But you cannot be all things to all people if you are not among them. Jesus was called a glutton and a drunk because of the people he hung out with on occasion (Lk. 7:34). Jesus did not compromise his own message. He was vindicated by his own actions; not on the basis of those he hung out with (Lk. 7:35).
Jesus and Paul provide great examples of engaging the unbelieving world. While following their example, we Christians need to be careful to not compromise the gospel. We need to be careful not to get sucked into the world least we put unbelievers first and God second. And when nuances arise, let’s be careful to clearly define our beliefs. And if it seems like another Christian is compromising, let’s assume the best in love (1 Cor. 13:7).
Christian nuance exists in our daily words and actions. We speak the language of our culture though we omit certain ungodly words and ideas. We mostly do the same actions of our culture while forgoing that which is ungodly. But we basically look and sound like our unbelieving neighbors. The subtle differences become clearer with more gospel engagement, not less.
Like Paul, may our hearts for the lost create intense sorrow and continual anguish for their souls. Like Jesus, may our hearts for the lost allow us to boldly and uncompromisingly step into their world.
Grace and peace,