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Culture as a Means to Love (The Purpose of Culture, Part 4)

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all… 1 Thessalonians 3.12

Some obvious examples

We have seen that the end of culture, the reason God has given gifts of culture to human beings, is so that His presence and character of love may be made known. The purpose of culture is to bring love for God and love for our neighbors into the light of day, unto the glory of God.

The Law and all the Word of God guide us in seeking to glorify God in every aspect of our lives, so that, whatever we’re doing or whomever we’re with, the outcome we seek is love, thus making the character of God known in personal and palpable ways.

Culture is an excellent tool for showing the love of God. There are many obvious examples of this in the Scripture, and we should perhaps mention a few.

Let’s think first of all in terms of culture used to show love for God. Abel made a sacrifice to honor God, giving up of his own flock in order to glorify the Lord. Noah built an ark as an act of loving obedience to God and love for His creatures. Abraham built altars, the people of Israel built a Tabernacle and, later, a Temple, and David wrote wonderful songs. All of this was done in an effort to say to God, “We hear You, Lord, and we’re grateful for Your redeeming grace and steadfast love, and here’s how we want to show You our love.”

There are also many examples in Scripture of culture being used to show love for others. The making of books, for example, or showing hospitality to others. Creating a fund at one’s church to care for the widows and the poor. Establishing officers as shepherds in the church, in order to care for God’s flock. Preaching the Gospel to lost people. These are all examples of culture put to use in ways designed to show love for others.

So it’s clear that at least certain aspects of culture can be used to show love for God and our neighbors. But does this mean that all our cultural activities should be so intended?

The abiding thing

According to Paul, love is the quintessential virtue (1 Cor. 13.13). When all else fades and is gone, love will remain. The Christian must do nothing but what is motivated by love for God and neighbors. We must strive to increase in love and to be more consistent in it. If we’re going to engage our cultural lives for anything other than love of God and neighbors, that would create a diversion from our primary purpose and calling.

Faith working by love (Gal. 5.6) is the full-time calling of the believer, no matter what his calling or station in life (1 Cor. 7.19, 20).

So whatever our cultural interests and activities may be, whatever kinds or forms of cultural engagement we may take up, we must, if we are to be consistent, make certain that love for God and neighbors are the guiding principles behind all we do.

This may involve something as simple as paying more attention to our cultural lives, with a view to serving God in all kinds of cultural ways. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, and so he doesn’t have to think about how God might be honored or His character displayed in his cultural activities. Christians must not live this way, as Paul insisted (Eph. 5.15-17). The Christian trusts in the Lord with all his heart and leans only on the understanding of God and the mind of Christ so that, in all our activities, we acknowledge, serve, and display the reality of the living God, Who is love (Prov. 3.5, 6; 1 Cor. 2.16).

There is no place in our cultural activities for whatever is merely self-serving or self-aggrandizing. We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and not ourselves to the exclusion of our neighbors.

It’s clear we’re going to have to give our cultural activities some more careful thought and prayerful consideration.

We may, of course, engage in cultural activities in order to prepare or refresh ourselves, so that we become better equipped to love our neighbors in meaningful ways; but we must never lose sight, in whatever we may be doing, of the overarching requirement of all culture and life, which is to show love to God and neighbors as the one abiding thing.

Next steps

Today, explain to another believer what we mean by the term, “a culture of love.” How does your friend respond?

Additional Resources

Download this week’s study, The Purpose of Culture.

You can also download the two previous ViewPoint studies in this series, Engaging Culture and Redeeming Culture, by clicking here and here.

For a brief study of what it means to pursue culture every day for the glory of God, order T. M.’s book, Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars by clicking here.

Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.

Except as indicated, Scripture 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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