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Getting Around in Culture (5)

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10.3-5

Two kingdoms
The inescapable fact of a Christian’s existence, as Augustine pointed out, is that we live in two kingdoms, two worlds at once.

On the one hand, we are citizens in the Kingdom of God, the heavenly City which is coming to earth increasingly as the followers of Christ pray for it, seek it, embody it, and work for its progress. This is our native land, the realm from which we have been sent to the world as witnesses and ambassadors to engage the people around us and the culture at our fingertips with the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.

In the Kingdom of God, whatever we do has significance, because whatever we do can bring glory and honor to God. And this includes all that we do while we’re getting around in culture.

On the other hand, here is the earthly city, what Augustine called the “city of man,” where we also live and conduct our lives. We cannot escape habitation in an earthly city, although we can certainly avoid the practices and protocols of that city where they conflict with our Kingdom citizenship. We are in this world but not of it; therefore, we bring to it a way of life that bring renewal and hope.

Intersection of worlds
It is in the intersection of these two worlds that our engagement with everyday culture provides us opportunities to demonstrate our ultimate allegiance and transform our temporal experience. The Lord Jesus, Who reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, and Who is making all things new, is restoring to goodness the world that He Himself has reconciled to God; and He is doing this great work by His Word and Spirit in and through us, His people.

We are creatures of particular places and times. These necessarily involve various cultural, social, and ethical norms and mores, and we participate in these, to one degree or another, by virtue of our temporality, our being creatures of space and time.

But we also recognize that the world around us is fallen into sin, and, whether it understands or accepts that, all the cultural gifts bestowed by God on fallen men are being used in ways that reflect less than their full potential to glorify Him.

There is much of beauty, goodness, and truth to be discovered in the city of man, as Augustine pointed out toward the end of his great treatise, City of God. But all the culture and best intentions of men turn to corruption apart from the power of God to redeem and renew them. We who live also in the heavenly city now possess the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16); we are able to see the ways that culture can be “taken captive” from the clutches of sin and unbelief and made to serve the purposes of Christ in all things. Thus, for the honor and glory of God, we commit ourselves daily to using all our time, activities, relationships, roles, responsibilities, and culture to furthering His rule on earth as it is in heaven.

Taking culture captive for Christ
Thus, a computer—a truly good and excellent gift—which some might put to use stealing another’s identity, indulging in pornography, bullying a classmate, vaunting their vapidness, or sowing a virus to frustrate the work of others—we employ for learning, teaching, encouragement, and otherwise promoting the beauty, goodness, and truth of God.

Similarly, where others might use our native tongue to deceive, curse, slander, defame, or merely to aggrandize their own place in life, the followers of Christ employ their tongues to edify, encourage, and strengthen others, and to proclaim the message of the Kingdom and King Who makes such transformations of life and culture possible (Eph. 4.29; Col. 4.6).

In countless other ways, the followers of Jesus can demonstrate beauty, goodness, and truth within the temporal spaces and activities of this fallen world. Whatever we do, we are involved in two kingdoms, and we must bring the truth and light of the one to bear on the darkness and unbelief of the other. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; nothing short of devoting whatever we do to the honor and glory of Christ becomes us as His followers.

We must “learn Jesus” (Eph. 4.17-24) such that His knowledge, wisdom, grace, and power come to light in all our use of culture. And as we learn Him, let us be careful to do all that He directs us to do, taking all our thoughts and works captive for obedience to our Lord. We do not need to be gifted artists, accomplished composers, or prolific poets to make culture that glorifies God. We just need to be attentive to all the culture of our lives, to redeem and restore it so that what we use and how we use the culture of our lives will testify to our commitment to King Jesus.

We live in the intersection of two worlds, but we must always walk the path which leads from and to our eternal dwelling-place, even in our use of culture. The more alert we are to ways our two worlds intersect and interact, and the more we study to understand the good and upright paths of the Kingdom of God, the better we will be at taking thoughts and culture captive and making them obedient to Jesus.

For reflection
1. Summarize your approach to getting around in culture in the two kingdoms you inhabit.

2. How would you explain what it means to take all the culture of your life captive for Jesus Christ?

3. Suggest some ways believers might become more alert to the opportunities for glorifying God in the everyday culture of their lives. 

Next steps—Preparation: Meditate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. How might you use this psalm to help you get around in culture?

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.

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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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