In the World... And of It?
Our worship design team was studying the parables in Matthew 13, where Jesus is illustrating “the Kingdom of God is like…” The gospel of Jesus is the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We were focusing particularly on the parable of the wheat and the weeds growing together until the Day of Judgment. The Kingdom Of God is the demonstration on earth of Heaven’s redemptive purpose made visible through the counter culture community of God’s people--the community of salt and light. These followers of Jesus will be “proclaiming good news to the poor…rebuilding the ancient ruins and restoring the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” (Isa. 61:1, 4). We are called as disciples of Jesus to be engaged in the world and culture without being enculturated by the world’s values and behaviors--in the world but not of it. Rusty, one of our music guys, mentioned how Christians tend to relate to the world in three different ways:
- The church becomes a fortress (place of retreat) that protects itself from the evil influences of the secular culture in an attempt to keep the unholy out. Separatists avoid contact with culture in every way possible by not participating in “secular” arts and media forms (e.g., music, movies), public education, etc. The Pharisees were separatists.
- These folk have assimilated the values and behaviors of culture. They are in the world and mirror the world’s values. The apostle Paul warns his young prodigy Timothy to guard himself from the influence of these people, “who will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Tim. 3:5). These folk believe in God and profess Jesus, but they bring Jesus into their own worldview instead of being transformed into his Kingdom of God worldview. I am currently working on a new book with my friend Chuck Gutenson about the negative spirit of divisive partisan politics that has been enculturated into the theology of the church. For some, one’s partisan political persuasion has become a litmus test of theological fidelity. What a perversion of the gospel! Cultural Christianity in any form creates an inability among the masses to distinguish the counterfeit from the real thing. This is why the under 35-year-old generation views the church in such a negative light, seeing Christians as “hypocritical and judgmental” (Kinnaman’s research in Unchristian).
Engaging and redeeming culture
- This is the company of Jesus’ disciples who are actively engaging the culture in creative and redemptive ways; rebuilding, restoring and renewing.
Jesus tells us that both wheat and weeds will be growing up along side each other until the last day. The Church at its best has stood up against the demonic forces of segregation, apartheid and the subjugation of women. The good news of the gospel has been carried throughout the world proclaiming release for the captive, bringing freedom from oppression for the poor, along with building schools, hospitals, micro-loan programs, agriculture and safe water programs (restoration that has both eternal and temporal value). But the church has also supported racism, sexism, participated in gay-bashing and turned its back on demonic systems that have enslaved and oppressed the poor.
Here’s my question that I want to pose to you. How do you see the values of our current culture being assimilated into the church? And or, how can we as the church be creating-redeeming culture?