For the Discovery Church family, this blog post is a very brief excerpt of Sunday’s sermon.
A couple of years ago, my friend Brian Mavis was preaching at Discovery and he posed the question, “Is the church’s relationship to culture a boxing match or a beauty contest?” He had participated in a think tank of Christian leaders in DC and heard the question originally posed by Eric Teetsel of The Manhattan Declaration. The question has festered inside me ever since.
The boxing match side of the equation isn’t difficult to understand. The “culture wars” have been raging for over a generation now, but it surely begs the question of why followers of the Prince of Peace are so comfortable waging a war.
I think some of the reason for this “war” is because too many Christians have made a fundamental mistake: expecting a non-Christian to act like a Christian. When did we forget that the Bible is God’s Word written to God’s people? It has absolute truth in it, specific right and wrongs and the whole package is a path of life, a vision for how to be human. But it only makes sense through the transformation of the Holy Spirit. It only works when a human heart has been captivated by the love of Jesus, yet far too many Christians lace up the gloves and attempt to inflict the way of Jesus without sharing with people the love of Jesus.
Other followers aren’t lacing up for a fight, they are simply grieving the current reality. Understandably so, for in many cases the values of the country they grew up in are no longer the values of the country they live in. They never changed countries, they feel that their country drastically changed on them. Particularly for white suburban people, the values of their country used to run parallel, or in loose agreement with the values of scripture. However I’m not sure that many african american or native american followers harken back to the good old days. Perhaps this is yet another lesson white believers can learn from their brothers and sisters from other ethnic groups?
The church is no longer the home team, we are now the away team.
And the great news is the gospel THRIVES when the church is the away team. The bible records approximately 1700 years of history from Abraham to John the revelator. Out of that 1700 years, God’s people had political and cultural power for about 60 years. The rest of the time, the people of God were the away team and of many years during that time the gospel absolutely thrived. This is good news for followers of Christ because the majority of the Bible shows us examples of people living faithfully for God in a culture that was indifferent or hostile to their way of life. Abraham, Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah….Jesus, Paul and the Apostles all lived the vision of God’s Kingdom while living inside a different political reality. Granted, things didn’t always turn out well for them, but they did for the Kingdom.
This is the beauty contest side of the equation. Followers of God had a beautiful story, the most beautiful story of the God of grace whose vision of how to be human is stunning in its implications for all who believe.
Perhaps we need Paul’s reminder in Philippians 3 that we are citizens of God’s Kingdom. We are not dual citizens, we are resident aliens who are ambassadors for God’s love. This is a difficult thing to remember in the land of the free. We aren’t here to need something from culture, we are here primarily to give something to culture. Often the way we give it is opposite of the way we would want to: self sacrificing love. This is the power of the gospel. This begs two questions I wish to ask:
Q1. What should a Christian reasonably expect from their culture?
Q2: What should culture reasonably expect from the Christians in it?
What do you think?