Restoring Culture

Our mandate reaches to all aspects of culture.

The Need for Restoration (6)

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6.6-9

Restoration template
By His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ accomplished the redemption of God’s people and the reconciliation of all things to God. God, in turn, has given to us, His people, the ministry of reconciliation, which involves bringing glory to God in all aspects of life by restoring the reconciled world to His goodness. Jesus, enthroned at the Father’s right hand, has given us the Kingdom of God – His indwelling rule in us, by the power of His Holy Spirit – and through us is working to make all things new. Dwelling within all who believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is writing the Law of God on our hearts, erasing the old, sinful narrative that guided us for years, and restoring the works of the Law God originally inscribed in our soul as His image-bearers.

The Law of God is the template for our work of restoration – not the complete kit, but the template. The Law won’t save us; only the Gospel can do that. But as the Gospel is received and the Spirit comes to indwell us, the work of learning, delighting in, and obeying God’s Law goes forward as we focus on Jesus, study and meditate on His Law, and build on that template our understanding of all the teaching of His Word.

Beginning in our soul, Jesus works to restore us in love for God – true worship, joyous obedience, and honoring Him in all things – and for our neighbors – showing the love of Jesus to them by word and deed. The Law is the guiding template for this work of restoration. It teaches us to look always to Jesus and, in practical ways, to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. The Gospel establishes the Law, Paul insisted (Rom. 3.31), as the foundation for the Lord’s restoration project. That project will only come to completion in the new heavens and new earth; however, we pursue that work of realizing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as the defining motif of our lives.

And the Law of God – the learning, living, and teaching of which are key to greatness in God’s Kingdom (Matt. 5.17-19) – provides the essential template from which we derive the first principles and guiding instructions for learning the rest of God’s Word, putting on Jesus, and pursuing the work of restoring the reconciled world.

We ignore the Law of God – those first five books of Moses – to our peril. Let us pray that God will enable us to say with the psalmist, “O, how I love Your Law!” (Ps. 119.97)

The Law and culture
The Law teaches us how to practice the love of God – love for God and our neighbors – so that the grace of God serves as the currency of the divine economy God is bringing to pass on earth as in heaven. But, since human beings are not only relational creatures but cultural creatures as well, God’s Law directs us in how to make and use culture in loving God and our neighbors.

God is writing His Law on our hearts. He commands us to set it firmly between our eyes – to lodge His Law in our thinking, so that it provides the guiding framework for all our decisions and actions. And He commands us to write His Law on the doorposts of our homes and on the gates of our city. While we may certainly obey this commandment literally, the larger meaning of our text is more expansive. God intends His Law – in all its beauty, goodness, and truth – to serve as the standard for how we conduct our relationships in our homes and communities. But it also intends to shed light on our cultural activities – making a home, raising a family, ordering our worship, pursuing our work, making beautiful things, being good stewards of our property and possessions, educating a community, and creating institutions to maintain justice, care for the poor, sustain a flourishing economy, ensure proper inheritances, and defend the community against Law-breakers and other threats. The Law of God speaks in a foundational way to all these matters of culture, directing us how to resume our original mandate to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1.26-28; Ps. 8; Heb. 2.5-9), developing and guarding it and its resources for the glory of God.

The apostles certainly understood this. Both Paul and James invoked the Law of God to redress cultural imbalances and inequities (cf. 1 Cor. 9.8-14; Jms. 5.1-4). Paul appealed, first, to a statute of God’s Law directing us in the proper care of the animals that work for us; under the guidance of the Spirit, Paul interpreted this statute to apply to a congregation’s responsibility to provide for those who serve it in the ministry of the Word. James rebuked the wealthy who, in direct violation of divine statutes, held back the wages of those who worked for them, rather than remunerate them in a timely manner.

That the Law of God addresses the proper use of the arts within the household of faith is clear from the account of God enlisting the entire community of Israel to construct the tabernacle and its furnishings (Ex. 35, 36), and from God’s creating a song for Israel to use in keeping its heritage and covenant obligations in mind (Deut. 31, 32). The Law addresses issues of concerning marriage and divorce, coinage and monetary value, and the practice of justice. God intended His people to use the Law as a template to guide their thinking as they managed their homes and communities for loving God and their neighbors.

We should expect that same Law to guide our thinking in all matters of cultural restoration.

It takes a community
Creating and sustaining a culture that honors God and allows for maximum flourishing of all the members of the community requires that all the members of the community take responsibility for the culture that falls within their spheres of existence and influence. God’s people need to learn together, work together, share and assess matters together, and seek the guidance of God’s Law – and all His Word – in thinking about the kind of culture – personal, domestic, and communal – that will honor and glorify God.

Our desire is to see the goodness of God abounding on every hand in the culture that we use and make. Culture entails all the artifacts, conventions, and institutions we create in order to define, sustain, and enrich our lives. When we allow the Law of God to guide us in making and using culture, we bring the light of that which is holy and righteous and good to bear on all our cultural choices and activities. As we do, it will be more evident that, throughout the community where God’s restorers are at work, everything we do – down to even our choices of diet and manners we use at the table – will point to God, glorify Him, and lead us into His pleasure and joy (1 Cor. 10.31).

God’s Law is a rich resource for guiding us into culture that is edifying, liberating, pleasurable, useful, delightful, and good. We should look to it to light our path in all our cultural endeavors, as in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities (Ps. 119.105).

For Reflection
1. Why does it only make sense that the Law of God should help us in thinking about matters of culture?

2. If we don’t look to unfailing standards for culture – like the Law and Word of God – how can we judge whether the culture we make and use is good for us?

3. How confident are you that your use of culture is informed and shape by God’s Law and Word?

Next Steps – Transformation: Make a short list of all the ways you will be involved in culture today. Commit these all to the Lord, then prayerfully seek His guidance in making and using culture for His glory.

T. M. Moore

How can we understand the role of the Law in our Christian lives? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, can help. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore