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Confronting Unloving Culture: Begin Here

It starts with us.

What Is Culture For? (5)

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— meditate on these things. Philippians 4.8 

Where cultural judgment must begin
These words of the apostle Paul have a curiously cultural ring, don’t you think? True, noble, just, pure, lovely, commendable, virtuous, praiseworthy—these sound like terms we would use to extol the virtues of some book we’ve read, film we’ve seen, or person we admire. They’re the qualities we would like to see in our politicians, educators, and culture-makers, because we believe that if they were like this, the culture they create and produce would be more like this, too. And so would we who use that culture to define, sustain, and enrich our lives.

But we don’t desire such virtues only for the movers and shakers of our contemporary culture. The same applies to us. These are the kinds of qualities we probably already see in ourselves in certain of the ways we use our culture. The meals we prepare, the table we set, the excellence with which we pursue our work, the care you take in dressing, our manner of conversing, our use of the Internet: No doubt in these and many other areas of culture we are conscious of wanting to serve God and bless others.

But are we as consistent, thorough, and diligent as we ought to be in our cultural lives? When it comes to working for a culture of love, one that spreads the grace of God—as opposed to a culture of mere narcissistic self-indulgence—it is time, as the apostle Peter might say, for judgment to begin in each of our souls (1 Pet. 4.17).

We are daily confronted with cultural forms that do not promote love for God and neighbor, and we need to recognize and deal with them as part of our Christian approach to culture.

Dangerous seeds
In the parable of the soils Jesus warned that, when the field of our souls is sown with the tares of this world’s diversions and values, they will grow up and smother the fruit of true righteousness and love (Mk. 4.1-20). Many of us are opening our souls to such worldly seed-thoughts by the culture we indulge and the way we use it. Seeds of self-indulgence, corruption, and indifference to beauty and goodness can dominate our soul and bear fruit in our everyday lives other than love for God and neighbor.

Each of us must engage in a continuous searching of our souls to determine where these dangerous seeds may lie, and to root them out before they bear fruit. In our thought life, our desires and aspirations, our priorities and values, advertising, pop culture, social media, and the spirit of this world waft the spores and seeds of a culture of self-indulgence over the soil of our soul. Unless we deal with this continually, it will choke off our ability to engage culture in ways that consistently evidence love for God and neighbors.

Time for introspection
We need to take time specifically to reflect on the state of our souls with respect to our cultural lives. Daily, as we shine the light of God’s Law and Word into the recesses of our soul, we will be able to discover anything lurking there that can keep us from glorifying God. As we listen in patient prayer for the convicting voice of the Spirit of God, He will warn us against this or that cultural form or idea and guide us into the truth of God’s Word for our cultural lives.

This is not a call for us to take up some new and exotic spiritual discipline. It is rather a challenge to engage in prayer and reading Scripture in deeper, broader, and more reflective and revealing ways than we have perhaps been used to thus far. We need to examine our cultural preferences, choices, and activities to make sure that love for God and neighbor are the end we seek.

Three Scriptures can guide us in this effort, and I recommend that you memorize them and put them on note cards in prominent places until they are part of your daily spiritual life.

The first is Psalm 139.23, 24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart;/Try me, and know my anxieties;/And see if there is any wicked way in me,/And lead me in the way everlasting.” As you pray this, let all the different aspects of your cultural life float before your mind—what you watch on TV, your conversations at work, how you do your job, your manner of dress, your diet, and the entertainment and diversions you indulge. Listen to the Spirit as He guides you in ways excellent, lovely, beautiful, and true, and repent of anything that doesn’t fit those ideals.

The second passage is Psalm 119.59, 60: “I thought about my ways,/And turned my feet to Your testimonies./I made haste, and did not delay/To keep your commandments.” If we spent more time during the day thinking about and evaluating our cultural lives, we might discover new ways of using our cultural activities to show love for God and neighbor, according to His Law and Word.

Finally, look to John 16.8-11, where Jesus teaches, “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Call on the Spirit to show you any sin in your cultural life, to point you in the way of righteousness instead, and to give you sound judgment to resist the devil and choose whatsoever is good, wholesome, edifying, and true.

Our world is steeping in culture that demeans, defiles, and destroys. We need to offer a better way and a use of culture that is more edifying and loving. But for this to occur, we who believe in Jesus must confront unloving culture, and this work must begin in the souls of each one of us.

For reflection or discussion
1. How many ways does the narcissistic and self-serving culture of our age assault your soul each day? How mindful are you of the insinuating presence and power of these seeds of culture?

2. In what ways does contemporary culture fail the test of a culture of love?

3. What dangers attach to any culture that does not focus on the ideas of loving God and others?

Next steps: Off the top of your head, can you think of any cultural activities in your own life that don’t rise to the standard Paul outlined in our text for today? Write down the three passages recommended for today, and share them with a Christian friend, explaining how you intend to use these in confronting any areas of unloving cultural engagement in your own soul.

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.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

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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