Immersed in culture
Christians are rightly concerned about the state of culture in our day. The fear is that, as the culture continues its decline into mere sensuality and self-indulgence, it will drag us and our children down with it.
Which makes it appropriate to ask, Are you changing culture, or is culture changing you?
For the followers of Christ there is no middle ground. We're either actively engaged in bringing the reality of God's Kingdom to light amid the cultural contexts of our lives, or we're allowing those cultural contexts to dim or obscure the light of Christ. Either the light of Christ in us is shining in the culture, or the bushel basket of the culture is turned upside-down over our heads.
All of us spend our lives in a variety of cultural settings. Our Personal Mission Fields unfold within the various cultural spheres in which we live and work. Every cultural setting is characterized by norms, protocols, and practices which embody the values and priorities of those spheres. What messages do the cultural spheres of our lives proclaim?
The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. Thus, we who are ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom have a responsibility to bring the manifestation of that Kingdom to light wherever we occupy space for the Lord. Our Kingdom citizenship should make a difference - in our homes, schools, work places, communities, and the like – showing that we are there, living for Christ and seeking to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Him (Matt. 5:13-16; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).
The way things ought to be
Changing the culture in which we travel is a high calling and ongoing task. Can you envision ways the cultural arenas of your life would be different if they were wholly devoted to Christ and His Kingdom? If things were more the way we think they ought to be, what would that look like?
Cultivating a vision for transforming culture is the starting-place for this work, and Scripture is the place to turn for nurturing such a vision. By learning the Biblical meaning of such concepts as beauty, goodness, and truth, and then by envisioning the outworking of those concepts in our various cultural spheres, we can begin to get an idea of where we might establish goals and objectives for our own work in changing the culture around us.
"Culture" is not some abstract, far-off idea which is only amenable to shaping by academics and "cultural types." We are all involved in culture, all the time - using it, making it, and either shaping or being shaped by it. We can't escape culture, and we must not allow culture to define the values and practices of our lives. Instead, we need to take up the challenge of changing culture, in as many ways as we can to reflect the beauty of Christ, the goodness of God, and the truth of His Word.
If our culture is not the way we think it ought to be, then we can do something about that.
Culture - along with the people in our lives - is where the cutting edge of the Kingdom engages the world, through each of our lives. God is determined to bring His Kingdom to light on earth as it is in heaven, and we are the tools of His Spirit for sculpting, crafting, and creating a new world for the glory of God.
We don’t have to let the culture change us or our children. If we will sharpen our culture-making skills and take up the daily challenge of shaping the world, we might begin to see our culture start to reflect the reality of Christ's rule.
We are the leaven of the Kingdom for transforming the loaf of this world for wholesomeness and goodness. A little leaven can leaven the whole loaf. Believe this, and act on it, and you may be surprised to see what God is able to do through you in bringing the light of Christ to your world.
If we’re not changing the culture in which we participate, shaping it in the ways of beauty, goodness, and truth, then we’re probably being shaped by the culture according to its own vision of the way things ought to be.
Change the culture, or be changed by it. You’re making that choice every day.
Are you conscious of the opportunities around you for making a Kingdom impact on the culture? What is culture? What is it for? In what ways do you use or make culture every day? What difference would it make if your culture-using and culture-making were more consistent with the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17, 28)? Talk with some Christian friends about these questions, then determine a plan for encouraging one another to change, rather than be change by, our culture.
For more insight to this topic, order a copy of Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making, from our online store. And read the article, “Meaning in Everyday Culture,” by T. M. Moore.