A primer on culture (9)
The call to Christian discipleship entails submitting to Christ, Who works in us, by the power of His Word and Spirit, to will and do that which is pleasing to God (Phil. 2.12, 13).
What an unbelievable privilege it is to be called sons and daughters of God, and thus to be part of a worldwide family engaged in bringing a new economy of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit to light in the world.
Such a labor of love will necessarily find us involved with culture. Christ came for the salvation of the world; in His life, death, and resurrection He accomplished the reconciliation of all things to God. And, as He works in and through us, He furthers the work of filling the world – and its culture – with Himself.
Believers must therefore consider how, in our own daily cultural activities, we may engage culture in such a way as to express our salvation, further the work of reconciliation, and “light up” all our cultural endeavors with the glory of God. This is the work of redeeming culture to which every believer is called.
Here I want to do nothing more than outline some thoughts on this important part of our calling. First, consider four ideas involved with the work of redemption:
- Redemption involves wresting someone or something from the grip and power of sin, in order to liberate it through the Gospel to fulfill its God-intended purpose.
- In order to accomplish this, a certain amount of refashioning and reconstructing is necessary, whether of a person or a cultural activity, in order to leave past sinful ways behind and pioneer a new course of Kingdom life and use.
- Those who are redeemed, and all redeemed things – whether artifacts, institutions, or conventions – must be employed with a view to refracting and honoring the God Who gave them. Nothing in our use of redeemed things should in any way contradict the reality, character, or will of God.
- Redeemed things and people realize their fullest temporal purpose in bringing the blessings of God to other human beings.
With that much of an outline in place, let me suggest five facets of an ongoing work of redeeming culture to which all believers are called:
- Seek to become more culturally aware, both in terms of your own engagement with culture as well as of the potential of culture for bringing to light the reality of the Kingdom of God. Think and pray about all your cultural activities according to the guidelines for redemption outlined above.
- Study to understand culture better. Read about culture. Study its history and the lives of those who have made significant cultural contributions. Talk with others about culture and how it can serve the Kingdom purposes of God. Work hard to discern the differences between the ways Christians might engage culture and the ways non-Christians do.
- Strive always to make wise cultural choices. Try to reduce the amount “unmindful” cultural activity in which you are involved. Make sure your mind is engaged with all your cultural activities and that you are “walking circumspectly” (Eph. 5.15-17) at all times.
- Make deliberate plans to use your cultural gifts and opportunities for the progress of the Kingdom of God. Become a better conversationalist, and plan meaning talks with others. Develop the gift of hospitality. Learn about your local art museum and go there with friends. Use the occasion to talk about the role of culture in life. Start a reading group.
- Resist all forms of cultural corruption and decay. Christians are the salt of the earth, so we must not be gateways through which, via corrupt culture, sin can find ways into our souls or lives.
Redeeming culture is part of our calling as believers. If we deny that this is so we do not simply limit the reach God’s Kingdom can attain through our lives. Because culture is inevitable and ubiquitous, we will always be involved with it. Culture has power, and if we are not working to harness that power for the progress of Christ’s Kingdom and the glory of God, that power can work corruption in our lives and, through us, in the lives of others.
What will you begin to do this week in order to redeem the culture entrusted to you by the Lord?
Related texts: 1 Corinthians 10.31; 2 Corinthians 10.3-5; Ephesians 5.18-6.20
A conversation starter: “Would you say that you are fully self-conscious about your use of culture? And if so, to what ends?”