A primer on culture (4)
Any discussion of the Kingdom of God must inevitably entail culture. Jesus, after all, is Lord of all. The earth is His, and everything in it. Every knee will one day bow to Him, and every tongue will confess Him as Lord. He is putting all His enemies under His feet, and His people are taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Him. His Word equips us for every good work, and we must do all things ways that bring honor and glory to Him.
In the midst of all those “alls” and “everys” is a whole lot of culture. The Kingdom of God impacts culture in ways that work to restore beauty, goodness, and truth to all of human life. The Kingdom of God advances in righteousness, peace, and joy by the Holy Spirit. Bring those features into any cultural arena – home, workplace, school, government – and change will occur.
As a framework for living, the Kingdom of God affects all we think about, everything we do, and all the ways we use culture to define, sustain, and enrich our lives.
Simply put, culture in the Kingdom of God is distinct from culture outside it. We see this in the book of Acts, where the first Christians understood that they were part of a new culture where people gave freely to meet one another’s needs and delighted to share in one another’s company in the Lord. We see it in Paul’s relationship with Philemon, when he fully expected his colleague to set free a runaway slave who had become useful to him as a brother in the Lord. We see in the new and more expansive role for women, in the clear definition of the purpose of government, and in the liberal and glorious use of the arts in communicating the message of God’s glory. So dramatic was the personal and cultural change which following Jesus as King brought into the lives of those first Christians, that their unbelieving neighbors became alarmed, declaring that “these people have turned the world upside-down (Acts 17.9).
We who believe in Jesus have been “transferred…to the kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son” (Col. 1.13). In that new environment we pass our days before the face of King Jesus. We root our souls in His Word and strive in every area of our lives to embody the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
In short, we are changed, and changing; and the culture we engage should be changed and changing, too. We need to take a good look at everything we’re doing, all our cultural activities. Are we making the most of these opportunities for the progress of God’s Kingdom? Or are we still living like all the lost souls around us, glomming on to culture for merely personal purposes and satisfaction?
Culture matters in the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God matters with respect to culture. We’ll know that we are experiencing the kind of transformation God’s Kingdom brings, and that we are using our culture in ways that further that Kingdom, when the character of the Kingdom – righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – begins to define the character of all our cultural activities.
Related texts: Romans 14.17, 18; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5; Colossians 3.23, 24
A conversation starter: “What would you say is the driving force behind your approach to using culture?”