The gospel of Jesus is powerful. It stands against any other worldview and gives the most comprehensive answer to life’s questions. It gives the answer for why evil exists, how to handle suffering, where to turn for freedom and hope and ultimately gives life a purpose. Yet, Christians often think or act like the gospel is weak and impotent. We live in depression and defeat over the sin in our lives, we fail to share and give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), and we barely understand the difference between Christianity and other competing worldviews. Ultimately, followers of Jesus are called to become infused with the gospel that they are able to engage the surrounding culture with God’s grace, the power to transform lives.
Before Jesus left the earth he prayed, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).
At this conference, Pastor Mark Driscoll made a few observations about the way Christian interact with the surrounding culture. Here are some of the ways he listed:
Christians are like the Pharisees or Essenes:
They avoid the culture by creating sub cultures. It’s the mindset that church culture is a bomb shelter; huddle up and hide. Christians become innocent but extremely naïve. The problem with this view is that evil not only exists outside of ourselves but inside our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” An example he gave was the home school movement. This is not to say that all who home school are wrong. But the motivation for doing so should be evaluated. If all Christians left public school system or sports leagues, stores, or any other public arena, then how will they be a witness for Christ to the world? Jesus said his prayer was not to take us out of the world but have protection from the evil one.
Christians are like the Sadducees:
They accommodate the culture. The church simply mirrors or reflects worldly styles and trends. In this case it becomes difficult to discern the difference between Christians and unbelievers. By default, the love of the world becomes god. The obvious problem with this view is producing god-substitutes rather than a clear difference and reason to become transformed by God’s grace and have devotion to Him alone.
Christians are like the Zealots:
They violently attack the culture for everything wrong that exists. They may be right in doing so but their methods are by far from honoring God or loving toward people. The church becomes known for what it is against and never what it is for or in support. The problem with this view is that it is arrogant and prideful. It forgets the reality that we are all saved by the mercy and grace of God. And it fails to offer the intended purpose of the gospel to transform others.
Christians are like the Disciples:
They seek to influence the culture with the gospel. They understand they are not perfect models but they point to the One that is, Jesus Christ. They have accepted the call to be on mission with God to redeem a lost and dark world without hope if they do not receive the gospel. The church becomes very public and culture shapers while remaining counter cultural. Christians are sent as missionaries just as Jesus was sent into the world (John 17:18).
So which are you and your family? Which category does your church fall into? If you find yourself in one of the first three categories then be honest in your evaluation. Repent of your sin of indifference, compromise or arrogance. Begin to make steps of faith to become more Christ-like. Follow the path and courage of the early disciples that others may take note that we have been captured by the extravagant beauty of God’s grace desiring to reflect that with others (Acts 4:13).