10 Apr Can Christianity and Culture Blend Together . . . Too Well?
Is it possible to simultaneously be culturally “hip” and a faithful Christian, or does “fitting in” with the culture compromise essential beliefs?
In different Christian circles this can be a controversial question. I still remember an issue of Christianity Today several years ago that asked, “Can Christianity Be Cool?” While vocational ministers may debate the answer, you and I are living with the tension. Like it or not, Christians must learn to function effectively in a culturally saturated workplace.
This is not a new dilemma. Jesus addressed it in a prayer over His disciples shortly before his death (John 17:1-26). From this passage is synthesized the often, overused phrase “in the world, but not of it.” We should take care about quoting the Bible without unpacking its full meaning—what did Jesus really say?
“In the world.” Jesus prayed, “I am no longer in the world; yet they themselves are in the world” (John 17:11). The Son of Man would soon be departing this world, but the Son of God is alive and ruling from heaven. The obvious reality was that His followers would remain in the world (until they died). He went further to clarify that He was not asking the Father to take them out of the world (17:15). On the contrary Jesus would “[send] them into the world” (17:18). Here is the reality: Christians have dual citizenship—in Heaven and on earth—but for now we reside on Earth. We must carry out His purposes right where He has placed us, relating to all kinds of people as we work, play, and fill our homes and communities with His light.
“Not of the world.” (John 17:16) Jesus set aside the glory he shared with the Father before the world began (17:5)—from the beginning he tried to explain “I’m not from here;” he spent three years teaching about a different paradigm, a new kingdom, a new citizenship. Saying we are “not of the world” identifies WHO WE ARE, not just WHAT WE DO (or don’t do). A Christian’s life has been fused with Christ’s, “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). We are “fellow citizens with the saints and of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19), but we are also “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20)—diplomats go out to others in compassionate reconciliation. “I have brought you glory on earth” (John 17:4)
So can Christians be hip? Cool? Or at least with the current culture? If you’re talking about clothes or music or coffee, I’d say sure. We should beware of trying to be different in any way that would draw more attention to us than to Christ. Jesus never asked others to cloister themselves away from unbelievers—He just pointed them to God. On the other hand, we must resist the temptation to accommodate cultural values that are clearly unbiblical. If there is nothing distinctive about our convictions and lifestyles, something is wrong. True followers of Christ will display Jesus’ distinguishing qualities, which are attractive to some and repulsive to others, depending on their state of heart.
When honoring Christ by every thought, word and action, you will be noticed “like stars shining in a dark sky” (Philippians 2:15)—like Daniel who never compromised but remained faithful and flourished in a pagan land because of his extraordinary spirit, excellent work and unmatched integrity. As followers of Christ, wherever we are, we are called to be both relevant and distinctive.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, sometimes I wonder why I often feel out of place. I know that I am Yours and You have called me to be set apart for Your glory and Your purposes. On the other hand, You have placed in this world. Your word actually tells me You have sent me into this world. And frankly, when I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that there are times when I actually love this world . . . maybe too much. So, how am I supposed to live? Grant me the wisdom to know how to be relevant and in touch with this culture while remaining faithful to You. Teach me to recognize and love the things You love and help me become a channel of Your grace and blessing to others. What I really want to be is a lighthouse that shines the light of Christ to all those I rub shoulders with, day in and day out.
“Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for that one person.” – Anonymous
ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS: WORDS THAT ELEVATE