Embracing Culture

The night Jesus was arrested he spent a lot of time in prayer. A good portion of the prayer was for those people, like me, who would claim to be his disciples (John 17). He prayed that God would protect them from the evil one; that their marriages, families, ministries and very lives would not be vulnerable to the work of Satan. He prayed that all who confess to believe in him would live in unity with each other. He also asked the Father to leave believers on earth, and not take them out of world. Jesus prayed these things, knowing that it would be his disciples who would enter into the culture of the world head on, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they would introduce Jesus into that culture.

It seems that many believers today have taken steps to separate themselves from the culture that they live right in the middle of. This is concerning because we are commanded to speak the truth of Jesus Christ to all those we come in contact with. We are told to be ‘salt’ within a culture that is searching for a little seasoning in their lives. The sobering fact about this issue is, when a believer or a group of believers ceases to be salt within the culture they are a part of, they become irrelevant and the ‘salt’ is no longer useful. What good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Religion can be a dangerous thing (check out the history of the Roman Catholic Church or the Crusades for further convincing). When believers start to think in a religious way, their vision may also start to blur in regards to why they are saved and why Jesus wants them on this planet. Followers of Jesus Christ are here to proclaim the life changing truth and peace of Jesus into a culture that so desperately needs it, even if they hate us for doing it. We must be careful not to start thinking that people without Jesus are bad and that we are good. When we think like this, we will begin to separate ourselves from them, even if we don’t intend to. There are a number of things that will contribute to this mindset, here are a couple:

  • Verbally attacking and blaming culture for everything wrong in our world.

When we spend our time focusing on how bad culture is, we begin to forget that sin is actually to blame. It is easy to forget that sin once had me as an enemy of God. There is a difference between complaining about culture messing everything up and confronting the sin in our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not convinced that God is satisfied with us when we complain about lost people and never take the time to show them Jesus.

  • Pay other people to engage in culture for us.

It is easy to give money to organizations and people who engage in culture with the gospel of Jesus. It is good to be involved in this and we should be doing it, but we must guard against the idea that we don’t need to do more. I’m not convinced that God is satisfied with us when we give money to help other people tell the culture about Jesus, and we won’t even walk next door and tell our neighbor.

This moment in history presents an incredible opportunity for believers. Travel has never been more accessible. We can literally get on a plane, sit and relax for 12 hours, and then get off the plane in a country on the other side of the world. If I wanted to stop typing right now and talk to someone in another country, I could do it. Things like this should be exciting to us. We are privileged to live in an age where there are endless ways to be involved with our culture. We just have to go do it.

3 Ways to Engage

 

  • See people as redeemed and unredeemed, not good and bad.

We must remember that Jesus is a redeemer. He has redeemed us, and He wants to redeem those who are lost in sin. It is in this redeeming process that he changes lives and can ultimately change culture. We need to fight against the idea that others are bad and we are good because we have been redeemed and they haven’t. If believers begin to abandon culture, we will also be abandoning our opportunity to bring the redeeming grace of Jesus into the world around us.

 

  • Be willing to sacrifice what is rightfully yours to win others

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul discusses that it is the responsibility of the believer to be willing to sacrifice in our lives in order to share the gospel with others. The goal for Paul was to exercise humility like Christ did when he gave up his rightful place at the right hand of God the Father. The gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive to the lost, it is natural to be offended by something that tells you you are a sinner and without hope apart from Jesus. As believers we must strive to not be offensive in how we share the truth of what Scripture teaches. Paul aimed to find common ground with everyone, even if he had to sacrifice to find it, so that he might see some come to Christ. This should be our purpose also.

 

  • Be creative in finding ways to implement the gospel into culture

Sometimes we hold onto methods or strategies that used to be affective, but no longer are. We must be mindful of where we are and who our audience is. We should certainly not be fearful of trying new ways to introduce the gospel into the culture around us. Anyone who works with young people is aware of how quickly the culture of a teenager can change. What may be relevant one week may not be the next week. It is imperative that we know where the culture stands so that we can influence it. Don’t panic, changing the way we implement the gospel in no way allows a change of what the gospel is. The life changing truth of Jesus never changes, and we should never dare to water it down in a hopeful attempt that the lost will have an easier job of swallowing it. But we cannot do things the way they have always been done and expect the culture to change and cater to our lack of ingenuity. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Let’s make sure that we are being the kind of salt that adds the flavor of Jesus into people’s lives. Instead of being insane, let’s be relevant.

-AJM

 

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