Posted by Student & Family Pastor JJ McLeod
I want to start with a question, the question that asks, “What should Christians be all about?” Go ahead and ask yourself that question right now. I would like to frame this question in a particular context; I want to frame this question around the idea of culture and how Christians ought to interact within culture.
Most of my life as I have grown up in the church there has been this sentiment that Christians are meant to be counter-cultural in the way they think, live, and feel. If I were to be honest, I would have to agree with much of that but as I have matured in my faith and have most recently been challenged on this topic, I feel there is a better way to think and talk about how we ought to interact with culture. You see while being “counter-cultural” is meant to be a good thing, unfortunately I feel it most often turns into “don’t be like the culture in any way because culture is evil”, ergo: don’t listen to their music, don’t dress like them, and never go to the places they go (certainly this is often right and good). Can I be honest? Thank you for your permission. Most of the time that is just dumb thinking and I have often been guilty of thinking that way.
Have we forgotten that people have been made in God’s image – while certainly marred and sinful – still made in His image? Have we forgotten about common grace, that God’s law has still been written on men’s hearts? Have we forgotten some of the wonderful things that our culture stands for that are good, like caring for the down and out, believing in the freedom to work hard and provide for your family, and that people who steal, rape, and murder will be brought to justice? I think we would all agree that these are good things, things that we care about and want to see continue, but I do think we have forgotten. Is our culture sinful? Yes it is. Is that all our culture is? No it is not. I love how Tim Keller puts this in perspective; he says, “Every human culture is an extremely complex mixture of brilliant truth, married half-truths, and overt resistance to the truth.” (Center Church)
"Is our culture sinful? Yes it is. Is that all our culture is? No it is not."
So how are we to think about culture and ourselves? I believe Christianity is meant to be a unique culture more than it is meant to be a counter-culture. What this means is we, as Christians, need to enjoy many parts of the culture that we live in while still being faithful to live out the truth of scripture, even when that means going against what culture says we should do. The difference is that we do it in a way that doesn’t fight against worldly culture in every place and forum available (hello social media) but instead allows the Christian lifestyle to speak for itself and when appropriate we will explain why our lives, beliefs, and feelings are different than the worlds in a way that honors Jesus and shows care for the culture around us.
"The culture around us needs our uniqueness, not our criticism and abandonment."
Let me challenge you to work out your salvation with fear and trembling in this area, seeking wisdom from God on how you might do this well. We cannot just reject the culture that we are in and gather ourselves into holy huddles thinking that this will do us any good, bring God glory, or impact the world around us, because it will not. The culture around us needs our uniqueness, not our criticism and abandonment. I believe as we grow in what that looks like to be unique (and seize opportunities to share why), the world will truly begin to see the life of Jesus in us and through us, and people will more and more trust Him for life and forgiveness.