Cancel culture seems to be a growing and increasingly hostile movement in the American context. This campaign has no boundaries because anyone is susceptible to its crosshairs. The idea behind this new societal approach admonishes people who speak against the accepted and ever-changing beliefs of the majority or most vocal. No one is safe! Anyone can be cancelled at any time based on something they said or did in the past or say and do in the present. The majority takes the place of sovereign so that they can use their social media power to silence others.
The rise of cancel culture causes a plethora of reactions and feelings from everyone. Many Christians may be wondering if the crosshairs will eventually fall or are beginning to fall on the church, which has a God-given body of authority called the Bible that informs our thoughts on morality. In fact, the Bible defines for Christians what is right and wrong. How do Christians respond to this new cultural phenomenon, and do we have a solution for this current movement? I believe we do have both a response and solution. Cancel culture needs the gospel! Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change, redeem, and transform the brokenness we see in this movement.
The Gospel’s Message
Take a moment to think through the gospel with me. Theologians have argued that the gospel means “good news” (cf. Rom. 10:15). Before the gospel can be considered good news, there must be some form of bad news—and the Bible teaches some very bad news indeed. The terrible news is that we are sinners—every single one of us. We were born into sin. Children provide us an observable example because no one taught them to lie, to steal, or to be selfish. They figured it out all by themselves because of their sinful hearts. Without Christ, we are all sinners who make serious mistakes in life. We say things we shouldn’t say, do things that ought not to be done, and think things that if others knew would completely ruin our reputations.
The reality is that everyone has a terrible past. We have all done things in life that are regretful, and in all reality, God should cancel every single one of us as we live lives out of our sinful nature. Nevertheless, here is where the good news gets good. Jesus came to die for our sins. He who had no sin died for sinners so that we would no longer experience an eternal death separated from God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Think of it like this: Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection is good news because it cancels our sin debt. Christ is the ultimate canceller of our past mistakes and regrets that are results of our sinful nature.
The good news, however, does not end there. Jesus not only cancels the past sins of anyone who believes and trusts in him, but he also transforms and renews the entire person in the present. Jesus prayed for each of his followers, “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus cancels our sins so that we can be purified in him. A Christian finds freedom in Christ. Paul says that the old creation, filled with sin and destruction, is no more and has been replaced by the new creation found in Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). This means that the believer is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming like Christ from the moment of salvation onward.
Cancel Culture’s Need
Why does cancel culture need the gospel? This movement silences a person that the most vocal people in society deem has done something wrong. Thus, those on the receiving end are cut off from their influence or contribution to society. Perhaps we could say that cancel culture brings damnation with no hope. In other words, those who become cancelled are lost with no chance for redemption.
The gospel, on the other hand, declares that there is hope from damnation. Out of God’s love, he sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sin (God remains just in this act) so that his believers can begin to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. From this view, I think cancel culture needs the gospel. Everyone has a past, but that past can be erased through the gospel and new life granted in Christ Jesus. To put it another way, the gospel declares that there is now no condemnation in Christ and brings an everlasting hope to a broken world (Rom. 8:1).
Stories of Second Chances
The Bible is filled with stories of second chances, which display the power of the gospel. We see many people with terrible pasts who were redeemed and used by God in some extraordinary ways. The Apostle Paul “ravaged the church” before he met Jesus, and through Christ was given a second chance to be one of the greatest missionaries to ever walk the earth (Acts 8:1). Peter denied Jesus three times, and through Christ became a staple of the church (Matt. 16:18). Abram lied to the Egyptians about Sarai being his wife (he said she was his sister), but God protected Abram and Sarai to bring all people Jesus (Gen. 12:10–20). Moses killed an Egyptian, but God used him to deliver his people from Egyptian captivity (Exod. 2:12). David committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband, but God used him to bring King Jesus to rule and reign over all the earth (Matt. 1:6). You see, the gospel of Jesus Christ is about hope for those who make mistakes, which is all of us.
What an opportunity for the gospel to go forth in the new era of cancel culture. While the brokenness in the world is brought to light, the gospel light provides a safe and warm place for all people. Believers acknowledge, “Yes, I have sins and made mistakes, but God saved me from all of it and has made me a new creation and provided me with a new community—i.e., the church. I am no longer that old person, I am one with Christ. I am not identified by what I have done or what culture thinks I have done, but rather I am identified in Christ Jesus my Lord. I am a child of God thanks to Jesus.” Brothers and sisters, our culture needs hope. An everlasting and unconditional hope that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide. Therefore, let’s share the good news with everyone.
I would like to leave you with this truth from Paul’s first Holy Spirit inspired letter to the Corinthian Church. Many people in this church could have been cancelled in our culture, but instead, the gospel brought confirmation to a new life in Christ. Paul reminds the Corinthians,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis added
To this, I say both, “YES,” and “AMEN!” The hope of the gospel’s life changing message is why cancel culture needs it.
If you want an excellent sermon on 1 Corinthians 6, listen to this resource by my pastor, J. D. Greear—click here.
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