The problem of the relation between Christ and culture immediately concerns the fundamental questions of Christian thought and action. Therefore a Christian must continuously contend with it. The one who does not touch it neglects his direct calling.
- Klaas Schilder, Christ and CultureSo whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- 1 Corinthians 10.31
I rather suspect that for most Christians, the idea of “calling” is something reserved for particular occupations within the Kingdom of God. One is “called” to be a minister, for example, or to go to the mission field. “Calling” relates to “spiritual service” of one kind or another.
This, of course, was not Paul’s idea. “Calling” is what one hears from the Lord when He summons us from death to life and the forgiveness of sins. Each of us is “called,” like the first disciples, to follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives. He is making all things new in us; we are new creatures in Him.
Jesus calls us to Himself so that He might send us to the world (Jn. 20.21). His purpose is to sow the entire field of the world with the seed of the Gospel, and, to this end, He sends His followers into all nations and every walk of life. Paul instructed the Corinthians to serve Jesus within the context and setting in which He had called them to Himself. Were some slaves? Serve Christ in the calling of a servant. Were some married? Serve Christ in your marriage and home, and then in all else.
Serve Christ, and glorify Him, in whatever you do, even down to such everyday, mundane activities as eating and drinking.
Whatever the condition or situation in which one is called to follow Jesus, he is invariably involved with culture. Culture – the artifacts, institutions, and conventions by which we define, sustain, and enrich our lives – is inescapable. Human beings make and use culture because, being made in the image of God, we are, like Him, makers and users of things. The clothes we wear, the language we speak, our laws, entertainments, manner of working, relationships, roles, responsibilities – all these engage and involve culture.
In short, we who are called to Christ are called to culture in Christ. Our direct calling is to bring the newness of Christ – which is the glory of God – to bear on and shine within all aspects of our lives, including our cultural lives. Isaiah foresaw a day when the people of God would shine like lights in all aspects of life and culture, attracting the attention of the world, and calling out from it those whom God has appointed for salvation (Is. 60).
Called to follow Jesus, we are derelict in our calling when we fail to seek Him and His Kingdom, or to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Similarly, we are derelict in our calling when we fail to engage all the fundamental thoughts and actions of our lives – all our culture – from the perspective of Jesus exalted, reigning, transforming our lives, and coming again in glory. Believers are called to refract, through their own lives and circumstances, the glory that is to come in the places and among the people to whom we come each day.
Are we up to this? Have we heard the voice of Jesus calling us to engage the adventure of culture as central to our calling to follow Him?
Or are we neglecting this most fundamental calling?
A conversation starter: Ask some Christian friends, “Should it make a difference in our cultural lives that we are followers of Jesus Christ?”
For more insight to this topic, order a copy of T. M.’s book, Culture Matters, from our online store.