Assurance in the Age of Cancel Culture

by Lauren Graham October 26, 2020

It is an extremely laborious call to be a leader, but this is especially so in the year 2020. When I graduated with my Master’s degree in Counseling from Midwestern Seminary in December of 2018, I imagined myself shooting out of cannon at lightning speed. I pictured myself thriving, serving faithfully in the counseling practice where I work, and striving to partner with Jesus in redeeming the area of mental health in the Church.

Much to my surprise, I soon discovered that my reality would actually be one of deep insecurity, doubt, anxiety, and sorrow. When one envisions their future endeavors, the vision that comes to mind is not typically one of being ostracised, outcast, pushed out, and well… “canceled.”

I found myself wrestling with my own expectations of myself, perceived expectations of my clients, and an ever-present imposter syndrome that seemed to stalk me like a bloodthirsty animal never wavering from its goal of devouring every inch of me. In some measure, this fear is valid considering the merciless age in which we live, an age commonly termed as “cancel culture”.

All I know is that in the current times we find
ourselves, there seems to be no room for weakness, mistakes, or brokenness. There is no space for mercy or compassion. At the first sign of humanness, society tells us to “cancel” someone or something.

If I am perfectly honest, “cancel culture” scares the heck out of me. It paralyzes me to my core and often keeps me from living the life that Jesus calls me to live. When I graduated from Seminary, I entered into a war that I never saw coming and this article is an outpouring of my inner war with “cancel culture” and fear of man. These Biblical truths are weapons of warfare for me in the middle of my fight with “cancel culture.”

  1. Jesus was canceled, therefore I can expect to be canceled as well.

    The truth is that while “cancel culture” is a new term, our world has been engaging in canceling behavior for thousands of years. Jesus, our High Priest, was intimately familiar with the struggles of living in a society that was dead set on His destruction. The religious and political leaders of the day had no mercy for Him and no desire to
    understand Him, only a thirst to critique, “cancel”, and kill Him.

    Jesus prepares his disciples in John 15:18-20 by telling them, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours”(ESV).

    No one is immune from being “canceled,” not even Christ. It is not a matter of “if” it happens, it’s a matter of “when” it happens. Can we accept that being “canceled” is an inevitable reality and choose to faithfully obey Jesus anyway?
  2. I can do and say everything right and I will likely still be canceled.

    “Cancel culture” has kept me from speaking when I needed to speak and from acting when I needed to act. I fear of being rejected. However, if Jesus, the perfect and spotless lamb of God was still canceled and killed, then I must accept that even if I were to do and say all the right things, I will likely still experience “cancel culture.”

    Jesus’ struggle with “cancel culture” had nothing to do with His character and everything to do with the spiritual war that was being waged for the souls of those seeking Jesus’ downfall. There are times when we stumble and are facing heat because we are reaping the harvest of our own sinful behavior. In those times, we need to do our best to own up to, repent of, and humbly submit ourselves to the consequences of those mistakes. However, being “canceled” does not automatically mean we have dishonored Christ. We must remember that being “canceled” is guaranteed for those that live on Earth and especially those who dare pick up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-27). Being resolved of this inevitable reality will help us to stand up under the pressure of “cancel culture” and continue to faithfully obey Jesus.
  3. God has given me a community that won’t “cancel” me.

    When I started my professional Instagram page for my counseling practice, I slowly discovered and will likely continue to discover that there is a difference between a follower and a friend. A follower (used in a social media sense not a biblical sense) is someone that latches on to what you are representing and gets behind your message. They are a fan of you and will stand by you as long as your message and your actions are aligned with their values and worldview.

    Proverbs 18:24 tells us that “a man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (ESV). The author of Proverbs warns us not to mistake companions for faithful friends. When we put our value in the hands of society around us, we are entrusting our hearts and souls to the whims of “cancel culture.”

    However, this verse also tells us that God has provided us with good gifts in friends that are not of the fair-weather kind. These are the ones that support us, walk with us, pray with and for us, and hold us accountable when we mess up. They don’t “cancel” us when we fall, they draw even closer and lift us up in truth and love when times get hard.

    When we are up against the wall in our fight with “cancel culture”, it is vitally important to remember that followers may come and go but true friends stand by us at our best and even closer at our worst. Those that “cancel” us at the first sign of weakness and brokenness are not the kind of friend that sticks closer than a brother.
  4. Only One Person has the authority to “cancel” me and He has promised me eternal life.

    Even in the tragic case when our friends and family have all turned away and “canceled” us, we still have an eternally faithful friend in Jesus. His friendship is unrelenting, drawing near to us even when we were His enemy. In John 6:35-40, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    This promise gives us hope that in an age of ruthless indifference, our High Priest has sealed our deliverance. On the cross where He emptied Himself out for us, He looked on us with compassion and mercy, while we were at our worst. May Jesus’ death and life be the anchor of assurance that your soul needs in a time where you face the threat of being “canceled” or worse. You and I have a hope that goes deeper into the eternal and it can never be taken away because of the faithful High Priest who sealed it on our behalf.

So what does this mean practically for Christian leaders who dare engage a culture that is prowling and seeking to eat them alive? There are several implications that flow out of these assurances that we can practice day to day. May we seek to grow in these areas as the day of Christ’s return draws near.

Spend more mental energy on eternal things than temporal things.

Is your focus on heaven where your hope is sealed in Christ or is it on a shifting and superficial culture looking to “cancel” anyone and anything at the drop of a hat? How can you shift your focus to spend more mental energy on eternal things rather than on earthly things?

Let your faithful friends have more influence on you than your flaky followers.

Please do not take this second point as an excuse to disengage from the mission God has set before us to win people to Christ. What I am saying is that your home is heaven and the people that should most influence you are those among the family of believers. Let the Church be your home base and let culture be your mission field.

Savor compassionate accountability and spit out critical “cancel culture.”

Make it a priority to surround yourself with brothers and sisters that will build you up in truth and love, not just truth and not just love. We certainly need truth in our friendships but a friend like Christ is one that will share truth with you and then faithfully walk alongside you on the journey of repentance. If someone is not willing to compassionately walk with you on the journey, then they do not have the authority to speak into your life.

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