The previous chapters discussed the scriptural foundations for the Great Commission and the Cultural Commission. and the impact of emphasizing the Cultural Commission over the Great Commission and the Great Commission over the Cultural. This chapter examines the need to give the Cultural Commission the proper weight in our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Why do we need to pursue the Cultural Commission?
Why is it that we see no problem with one of us going to Montpelier to testify for or against some issue that concerns our secular lives? I have been there, testifying to legislative committees about issues affecting the tourist industry – as have others from our congregation. Yet, we have fallen into the trap of believing that our voice should not be heard when it comes to ethical or moral issues. Why?
Because we have forgotten the words of Abraham Kuyper; we do not recognize that there is no separation between our lives as Christians and our secular pursuits. As Os Guinness writes, “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out in response to his summons and service.” 1 We cannot impose a false barrier between what we are in Christ and who we are in the world. We are His and the world is His.
For a simple analogy, think of the worth of a two-headed coin. To a collector of forgeries, it might hold some interest and worth; but as the coin of the realm, it is worthless. A genuine dime has a head and a tail, with distinctive designs on each side that attest to its genuineness. It has value and can be used to settle all debts and can be exchanged for goods and services (to the limits imposed by inflation). Even so, a Christian has two aspects to his life in Christ. He is an evangelist, implementing the Great Commission and he is a steward, implementing the Cultural Commission. These two sides, his “head and tail” in Christ are the demonstration of the validity, the genuineness, of his life in Christ.
The proof is in the doing. The evidence of the reality of the transforming power of the blood of Jesus Christ is in the exercise of the Cultural Commission. Paul tells the saints at Corinth, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Cor. 9:12-24). 2
Why should we seek to build Shalom
We need to consider the concept of Shalom at this point in our discussion. It is “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call Shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be…. Sin [and evil, unfortunately, break] ... Shalom….” 3
There are conditions and actions that destroy Shalom (Shalom Breakers), and there are conditions and actions that enhance Shalom (Shalom Builders). We, as the Called of God, are to apply our talents and our gifts to reducing and alleviating those conditions and actions that break Shalom and to strive to encourage and develop those conditions and actions that build Shalom. This is not merely a Sunday morning job: this is a 24/7/52 way of life that encompasses everything we do, every place we go, and everything we say. We are the Shalom Builders of the Father.
Why? It is because “we are to teach all he commanded us.” And foremost among those commandments is “And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22: 37-39) To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be Shalom Builders for our neighbors; to introduce them to message of the love of God and to work to bring the order of God into their lives.
One of the considerations as we examine our role in bringing the Cultural Commission into the world is that there is a “rightness” associated with those portions of society that are ordered as God directs. We can work those good works that He prepared for us to do “from the beginning,” and which bring the restoration of Shalom into the world. The things that return “rightness” to society are Shalom Builders.
It is important that our communities understand both the theological and the socio-economic implications of being either Shalom Breakers or Shalom Builders. As Christians, we must understand the whys and the hows of what God has ordered. This is what instructs us on how to encourage God’s ‘rightness’ in our society. Remember that God’s “rightness” always makes sense to us as God-fearing, God- seeking rational beings; but it is far less obvious to unbelievers or to Christians who are ignorant of God’s Word.
Thus, as we work in the secular arena, we must be fluent in the secular side of the problem: we must be able to converse with unbelievers in secular terms about the rightness of God’s design without ever using the words, “The Bible says ….” This opportunity will come in God’s time as we prepare the soil for the seed. We, for example, must be conversant of the ways in which same-sex “marriage” destroys the traditional family structure and of the ways in which it is important to maintain that traditional family structure. This awareness of God’s ‘rightness’, as demonstrated through the socio-economic implications, provide an entry to discussions with our friends, family and neighbors who do not accept the Word of God as authoritative. The good news is that this ‘rightness’ is always evident and true as God’s order becomes effective: the evidence is on God’s side of the issue.
One of the problems with those actions and conditions that destroy Shalom is that they leave garbage, residue, broken pieces lying around. We, as a portion of the Body of Christ, have always been active in trying to sweep up the broken pieces and mop up the mess. We adopt foster children, we nurture single mothers, we support various family services, we give generously to missionary efforts and to those working among the lost and hurting. We see the results of broken Shalom every day in our lives, our families and our communities. But, speaking a bit harshly, these are symptoms, we are treating the problem with Dristan; we are not applying our God granted talents to the source of the problem.
The socio-economic implications are enormous:
Abortion has resulted in a legal holocaust, which has murdered 56, 000, 000 human beings in the United States over the last 39 years. We have legally fostered a practice which has led to a drastic increase in suicide among women, a drastic increase in alcoholism, a drastic increase in single parent families, a drastic increase depression among women, a drastic increase in STD (sexually transmitted disease), a drastic reduction in the birthrate – now fallen to below the replacement level in many parts of the world …. The list goes on. Documentation is readily available.
The causes and effects of the decline of the traditional family is well documented in a study “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: The ‘conservative case’ for same-sex marriage collapses.” 4 Kurtz demonstrates how the factors of same-sex marriage, increased cohabitation, lax clergy, decreased emphasis on solidarity within marriage, etc. have led to an almost complete dissolution of the link between parenthood and marriage. The result has been disastrous to the society. In the introduction to his report, he says,
MARRIAGE IS SLOWLY DYING IN SCANDINAVIA. A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern--including gay marriage--is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.
What is the cost of a decline in the institution of marriage? One very important impact is in the number of children being raised in single parent homes. Ask those children if they miss their absent parent. Ask their teachers if they do not see more behavioral problems with the children of single parents. Ask any social worker you know if there are not significant emotional and psychological problems associated with single parenting. Check with the children of any non-traditional parenting arrangement and ask them if they find it ‘good’ to live without both a mother and a father. Ask those children if it is ‘good’ when the existing parent has a steady stream of significant others coming and going through their home.
The accounting scandals of the last few years are further evidence of the lack of an absolute moral and ethical base in the graduates of various elite schools of business in the early 70s. Their education put the emphasis on the bottom line so future business leaders were trained to go for the short-term profits; the goal was maximize current performance and not to worry about the long-term impacts. We know the result: hundreds of thousands of people lost their life savings and retirement benefits. This is not godly stewardship: this is not Shalom building!
A host of socio-economic problems accompany each situation that violates God’s order. Throughout our society, we see an increase of STDs, alcoholism, depression, suicide, drug abuse, and sexual abuse; an increase of the number of people in prison; a decrease in productivity; and a lack of moral and ethical behavior in all areas of life. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; but the Church has been tragically silent while America has been self-destructing.
1 Os Guiness. The Call, Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Word Publishing, 1998, p 29
3 Cornelius Plantinga. Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, A Breviary of Sin. Grand Rapids: Eerdsman, 1995. p10
Stanley Kurtz. “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia, The "conservative case" for same-sex marriage collapses.” 02/02/2004, Volume 009, Issue 20, © Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved. Available at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp