We live in Erskineville in Sydney’s inner-west, a.k.a ‘cat town’. There are so many random cats who potter along our back-fence and thud down on our roof. Two cats particularly frequent our patch. We’ve named them Cougar (because he kind of looks like a cougar) and Chester (because he’s white, like the white Tiger from the 90s, who my husband never managed to see as a kid).
Today Cougar and Chester had a face-off on our back fence. It seriously lasted for perhaps 10-15 minutes with ongoing meeeeeeoowwwwing from Cougar while Chester sat steadfast in front of him on the fence with a posture that said: ‘thou shalt not paaaasss’, Gandalf-style. We’re in stuvac so any distraction is welcome. Eventually, one of them swung (not sure who), and a full-blown catfight ensued – at which point we left the window, ran downstairs and out into the courtyard to try and scare them away from each other.
Often as a Christian, I’m the opposite of Chester. I’m a scaredy-cat. I can get all bold in the right context (with my husband, with my friends). But put me in another context (e.g. trying to stand out ethically as a Christian in a secular environment) and at times my spine just seems to get replaced with Aeroplane Jelly. I give in. I go along. I stay silent. But what else can I do? It seems like the only alternative is to replace my spine with a steel rod. To put my foot down. To pull out. To shout out. Whether it’s the office sweepstakes, Halloween, the coffee-corner gossip, the constant consumerism, the kids-party comparison game, whatever.
As followers of Christ in a world which often doesn’t agree with us, is there a middle road between catfight and scaredy-cat? Are there ways to retain my natural, firm but also moveable spine (and swap it neither for jelly nor iron)?
According to Chapter 35 of Andrew Cameron’s Joined-Up Life, there are. In this chapter Andrew outlines various strategies for negotiating the tension of living in a fallen world as sin-freed people:
1) We can cooperate. ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Rom 12:18). This is often a good option. But it can easily becomes only response (p226). We need to keep being creative…
2) We can expose. Blow the whistle. Rebuke them, challenge them. Shine a light on what they’re doing. Melinda Tankard Reist is a genuinely great model in this regard.
3) We can separate. Walk away. Give up the job. Change the school. Leave the friendship.
4) We can also…subvert. Not subvert in a sinister sense. But subvert by grace. I wish Andrew gave some more examples of this. I guess it’s things like:
· rather than walking away from the gossiping, showing grace in the situation – saying what you really like about whoever is the object of gossip.
· rather than giving up on the P&C, going along and suggesting ‘forgiveness’ as one of the school’s values (this is the example Andrew gives).
· changing the drinking culture of the 21st Century by providing amazing mocktails.
It’s proactive. It’s a bit ninja. A bit alley cat. I’m sure you can think of better examples than me.
I guess each approach is good in its own moment. Sometimes we will be able to subvert. Sometimes cooperation will be best. Sometimes it is more honouring to Christ to suck-it-up and expose the issue or even make the sacrifice and walk away. What’s your latest moral dilemma? Which approach will you choose?