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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Love As the End of Culture

All culture is for love.

What Is Culture For? (3)

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7.19, 20

The Law of love
Readers will note that this quotation from 1 Corinthians 7 sounds remarkably like the one we used to open this part of our study on a Christian approach to culture. There, citing Galatians 5.6, we quoted Paul as saying, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” Paul’s wording is neither mistaken nor accidental. For Paul, keeping the commandments of God is the way to show love for God and neighbors.

But then, Jesus said exactly the same thing.

He explained that all the Law and the prophets are fulfilled in the commands to love God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40). The whole of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, is given to equip us for good works of love (2 Tim. 3.15-17). Contrary to what many of us may think about the Law of God, it’s not this horrible burden and yoke, the keeping of which threatens to turn us all into little legalists vainly pursuing a salvation by works. Keeping the Law of God, and encouraging others to do so, is the way to greatness in the Kingdom of God, because it is the way of love.

At least, that’s what Jesus taught (Matt. 5.17-19).

The Law of God is the law of love, a sure and reliable guide to lead us in paths of love for God and neighbor. And even a cursory examination of the Law of God reveals that it addresses itself to all manner of cultural issues and concerns. The Law of God, expanded and elaborated throughout the rest of Scripture, can teach us how to use the gifts of culture as means for loving God and our neighbors.

The Law and culture
For example, the Law of God provides guidance in things like marriage and family life, the education of children, conducting business in the marketplace, making scales and using money, pursuing justice in courts of law, using the arts to the glory of God, what to eat, how to dress, how to honor your neighbors and care for the poor, how to conserve natural resources, how God intends for us to care for our fields and animals, and even how to conduct international relations.

These are all cultural issues and activities, and the Law of God, which is given to teach us how to love, speaks to them all. Thus the Law can be a powerful source for helping us realize the end of culture, which is love.

The Law of God teaches the best ways to pursue all our cultural activities to refract the character of the eternal God into and throughout our everyday lives, so that we glorify Him even in such mundane cultural activities as eating and drinking.

God gave His Law to Israel not to enslave them, but to liberate them into a culture and society where love would provide the guiding norms and practice. This is why James refers to the Law of God as “the law of liberty” (Jms. 2.12) and counsels us to live in every aspect of our lives according to this divinely provided standard. The righteous person, who certainly knows how to use culture in ways that demonstrate love for God and neighbor, meditates on the Law of God throughout the day (Ps. 1). The Law and commandments of God are holy and righteous and good, says the apostle Paul (Rom. 7.12). The Law of God illuminates the pathways of love, John explained (1 Jn. 2.1-6; 5.1-3).

And what we say about the Law of God is true of all Scripture. The Law of God is to the rest of holy Scripture as the acorn is to the oak. A growing oak brings changes to the acorn, to be sure, but the essence, substance, and end remain the same. The Law of God teaches us to read all of Scripture not just in “spiritual” ways but in social, moral, and cultural ways, so that the whole of life can be formed by the teaching of divine revelation, and we will be fully equipped for every good work, including all the work of culture (2 Tim. 3.15-17).

Right where you are
And we don’t have to go far or attain some position of stature to love God, obey His commandments, and transform culture into a resource for love.

Paul says we should each one remain in the calling—the place, occupation, relationships, roles, and responsibilities—which the Lord has appointed to us. There we must serve Him by obeying His Word in every detail of our lives. Each of us has a sphere of places, people, and things to do which God has prepared uniquely for us. There we must seek to magnify His Name by serving others with all the resources He provides (2 Cor. 10.13-18). That’s not to say we can’t change jobs or get married or move to a new place; it simply means that obeying God’s Law and living according to His Word, so that love for God and neighbors blossoms daily in and through us, can and must occur wherever we go in our walk with the Lord.

The more God’s Law—and all His Word—fills our souls, the less likely we will be to squander the opportunities He give us for loving others. And we can count on Him to supply all our needs—including all the resources of culture—we require to bear witness to His beauty, goodness, and truth to our world.

We can and must fulfill God’s purpose for the culture of our lives, right where we are, whatever we’re doing, whomever we’re with. And the Law and Word of God are indispensable to equip us for the good works of love for which God has redeemed and saved us.

For reflection
1. Meditate on 2 Timothy 3.15-17 and Ephesians 2.8-10. Why are these passages relevant to a discussion of culture?

2. Summarize what you would describe as your present “condition” or “calling. Jot down as much as you can that describes your everyday situation in life—people, places, things to do:

3. Do you believe that God can use you as a fountain and epicenter for realizing a culture of love? Why or why not? What are some ways your “condition” will need to change for this to happen?

Next steps—Preparation: Meditate on the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20.1-17). How do you see that these are designed, not to save us, but to enable us to live by the principles of love in the context of God’s gracious salvation?

T. M. Moore

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are 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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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