by Erik Ritland
The Word and the Church
Bible commentary following the Catholic Lectionary (which gives an overview of the entire Bible) by the Fully Alive staff
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
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2 Tm. 4: 1-8
Lk. 2: 41-51
What does it mean to be “relevant”?
If Christianity is true – and why believe in it if it isn’t? – it should be universally relevant. The living reality of God in Jesus Christ should relate intimately at the very core of every human being who allows him to be in charge of their lives. The teachings of the Bible should answer the fundamental questions, longings, and desires of the human heart.
If true, Christianity should do all these things, and thus be intimately relevant to every living person.
And indeed, praise God, it is.
Christianity is inherently relevant because it teaches timeless truths revealed by God, especially in Jesus Christ, God himself become man. Living in the light of Christ helps us fulfill God’s greatest desire for us: to become the best possible version of ourselves.
This is far different from the desire for Christianity to be “relevant” to our particular contemporary times. It is the Church that is called to lead the culture, not the other way around. Every culture is fashioned by temporary fads and trends, and often destructive ones that go against the Christian message, or at the very least undermine it.
We are called as Christians not to take this passively, or to change to please our environment, but to defend the timeless truths that God revealed to us. As St. Paul says in his second letter to Timothy:
Proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching
II Tm. 4:2
This is a clear teaching against changing with the times simply because it’s convenient. We should be unafraid, when it’s necessary and always in love, to “convince” and “reprimand” those who are in error. It is important for us to dialog with the culture, to try to understand it, and interact with it in constructive ways. But we are not to stray from the truths that God has revealed to us, even if it is inconvenient.
Paul warns explicitly that there are erroneous ways to be a Christian:
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.
2 Tm. 4: 3-5
We are indeed living in times of doctrine that is not sound and people “following their own desires and insatiable curiosity” over the revealed truth of the faith that they profess. Christians are called to correct errors with love, as this is the “work of the evangelist,” whether it is always comfortable or not.
Being relevant as a Christian doesn't mean conforming to the whims of culture. It means bringing the ultimately relevant message – that of Jesus Christ – into the lives of those around us, no matter what the cost. Devotion to Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we celebrate today, helps us immensely in this fight.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. He is the lead staff writer and podcast host of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, which features commentary on music, sports, and an intellectual ragbag. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.