I asked my Bible class these questions. "How does the Christian change culture? Or does culture change us?" In a sense, this is a trick question. Kind of like in graduate school when you're asked, "Is _________________ (you fill in the topic) a science or an art?" If you say, it's a science, then the assumption is that you can teach anyone to do it. If you say it's an art, then you have to have the abilities, otherwise it's really not something that's learned, only "inherited." When in essence, nearly everything could be answered "both." I think the same is true with my initial questions to the class. The Christian changes culture and culture changes the Christian. And both of those are (mostly) good.
I know what some will say. "We should not be 'of the world.'" But in truth, we can't help being part of our world. Therefore, should we go back to wearing robes and togas just as they did in the first century? Perhaps we should all start wearing beards (women excluded) since many did in the first century. No, we are changed by our culture and we do so in order to reach our culture. Paul said he became all things to all men that he might win some. So in that sense, culture does change us and it's not a bad thing.
You would have to agree with me that there are evil things in this culture that the Christian should not be involved in. So how do we change our culture? I've listed six things. This is certainly not exhaustive. Let me know your take on this. Add to the list. These six that I list are not that profound. Those of you who know me personally know that I'm just me. Not that great a mind. Just one who wants to do what's right. Wants to serve my Lord. These are in no particular order. Here's how I think we can change our culture.
1. We must pray. That really sounds simple doesn't it. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. In other words, never stop praying. Our God is the God of the impossible. Ask Abraham. Ask Joshua. Ask the virgin Mary. Ask Peter. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord said to the Israelites, "...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themsevles and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will hear their land." I think that still bears true today. There is nothing that ails us that God cannot heal. We serve the God who can do more than we can "ask or imagine." So praying is basic in our plan to change culture.
2. We must continue to search. It's what made the Bereans more noble. When we think we've achieved it, when we know all the answers, we've lost it. It is vital that we continue to think and rethink our hermeneutic. We must challenge our views daily making sure we are truly being the people we are supposed to be. Our continual setting of our eyes on Jesus is imperative if we are going to enact change. He is the One who makes it happen. We must truly be the people of WWJD. Really, what would Jesus do?
3. We must remember the power and influence of one. First, we often get caught up in causes and creeds we forget that change begins with us. We must change if we are going to change the world around us. It was said in Scripture that the apostles "turned the world upside down." How did they do this? One soul at a time. And it didn't happen until their lives were eternally altered. I love to read the story of Joshua. Why? Because his influence was phenomenal. The Bible says that as long as Joshua and those who served with him lived, the people of Israel served the Lord. If you go out into the Gulf of Mexico several hundred miles, you'll find fresh water. Where did it come from? It comes from the Mississippi River. Even though the river technically ends when it feeds into the gulf, it's influence into the briny waters of the Gulf of Mexico are felt hundreds of miles into the ocean. That's the influence we must have. To stand where no one else will stand. To put on the full armor of God and to be salt and light in this world.
4. We have to quit fighting useless battles. How petty we've become. And when we fight among ourselves, Satan wins the battle. As Leonard Allen says, we have a "balloon theology." We fill the balloon up with the air of the things we agree with. Soon it's nearly full, but we then disagree on one topic and the balloon is popped. How foolish. We have forgotten the very words of Jesus when He told us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It's all about relationships. Too many times we've been so busy getting things right that we've forgotten about those who are crying out for help. "Don't bother me," we've said. "I'm correcting my brother of the grievous wrong he believes." And we've let our opinions override our care and concern for the world. Let's use some grace and change our culture together. United we stand...
5. And as I have just mentioned, and what seems overly simplistic, we should love God and love our neighbors. I believe it was C. S. Lewis who said, "Love God and do what you please." If we remembered the relational world we live in, my how things would change. We live in a world of iTouch, e-mail, and texting. We've forgotten the art (science?) of face to face. To peer into another's eyes and smile. To tell that person how much you love them...and how much God loves them. Isn't this command to love God and our neighbor what Jesus said was what all of the other parts of the law hung their hats on?
6. And finally, we must remember the Old Testament. What? That seems strange, but hear me out. Read through all the times that God brought the children of Israel out of certain death. Read the prophets as they spell out the doom and destruction that Israel will go through. Even in the darkest times, when their seemed no way out, God was working His will. As Jeremiah sat in the middle of the ruins of Jerusalem, he uttered these words. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in him." (Lamentations 3:22-24). And when we think God is absent or silent or uncaring, remember these words. And remember that He can bring about the utmost surprises on our lives and the lives of those who live around us on this planet.
Whew! I was wound up. Join me, won't you in changing our world. And to God be the glory in everything we do. Have a great day! JW