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How Should the Church Respond to Cancel Culture?

In recent years, cancel culture has gained plenty of steam in public discourse. This form of ostracism occurs when someone is called out – often on social media – for speaking or acting in a questionable manner, and the public at large chooses to shun or discredit the person for a period of time, and possibly forever. Dozens of celebrities, athletes, and brands have been “canceled” recently, and the debate over whether cancel culture holds people accountable or censors free speech and casts unfair judgment is hotly debated.

In Week 1 of Hot Topics, Mike White examined the positives and negatives of cancel culture.

What Cancel Culture Gets Right:
  • Cancel culture mostly reveals a Biblical morality. (15:55)
  • Cancel culture can bring power back to minority groups to prosecute judgement on previously untouchable and powerful people. (17:00)
  • Cancel culture should lead to healthy conversation and understanding among opposing beliefs. (21:35)
What Cancel Culture Gets Wrong:
  • Truth is a moving target, and you don’t know what will get you cancelled in the future. It has no statute of limitations and punishment can be indefinite. (24:00)
  • Social media is driven by clicks & advertisements, and “truth” can be exaggerated, misconstrued, and falsified. (28:25)
  • Cancel culture gives everyone instantaneous status as judge and executioner. (32:05)
So how should the church respond to cancel culture? Mike outlined four truths based on Scripture that help Christians determine how to approach and respond to cancel culture.

1. Cancel culture makes your actions your permanent identity, but Jesus knows our actions and gives us a new identity.

Jesus knew our sin, our brokenness, our labels, and He left Heaven and gave His life. Our misdeeds and our brokenness are never our identity. We’re invited in as sons and daughters to the kingdom. That’s incredible.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What our divided world needs is hope, reconciliation, love, and peace.

2. The church doesn’t function with cancellation, but is charged to be ambassadors of reconciliation and to remove barriers.

The world says divide. This is wrong. If you don’t behave or believe like me, you’re out. But the church has reconciled, and you’re commissioned and sent out as ambassadors.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

What our divided world needs is hope, reconciliation, love, and peace. And I don’t know another source outside of Jesus Christ that comes from. We’re called to be salt and light in the world.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

3. Jesus meets people in the midst of their cancellation with grace and truth and restores their role in the kingdom.

Truth without grace is surgery without anesthesia. Grace without truth is knowing someone needs surgery and not telling them.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Jesus came with both, full of grace and truth, and you watch how He lives that out with everyday people.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-4)

Rather than raise ourselves up as judge, we surrender to the feet of the one who is judge.

4. Cancel culture is about imposition of judgement, while the Christ follower surrenders to the Judge.

There’s this nature of us to be judge and executioner. We fail to see people as people. We see them as a set of beliefs and actions. But they’re still made in the image of God, and we have to remember that.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:14-19)

All evil deeds are either paid for on the cross or in hell and neither one has us in the judge seat. So our hearts should break for people. We should pray for them, and the Gospel should transform our lives.

Rather than raise ourselves up as judge, we surrender to the feet of the one who is judge.

About the Author

Dan Hoppen

Dan is the Director of Small Groups at King of Kings. He’s the author of the book, God’s Broken Heroes, and has a second book coming out this fall in cooperation with Concordia Publishing House. Dan also is an avid foodie who hosts a weekly restaurant podcast called Restaurant Hoppen, on which he interviews chefs and restaurateurs from around Omaha.