Christianity Shouldn’t Change the Culture
February 24, 2016 — 1 Corinthians 9:19–23
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
When I read this passage this morning I was going to take my thoughts in a pretty broad direction talking about Paul being all things to all people. However, before beginning my writing I read an article by my buddy that is really bouncing around in my head today. It is going to have a big impact on how I express what I want to say today, so please go read that and then come back here.
At some point American Christianity decided that it needed to define itself just as much about the way they act as the God they worship. Even though we sing hymns saying that they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love (for one another in unity by the way, the whole point of the song, but I digress), we also thought it would be important to show of that we are not of the world in the most flashy ways possible.
We removed ourselves from the evil liberal secular media and created a hub of safe, family friendly culture that we could all enjoy together while waiting for Jesus to come back. See how different we are from the world guys? The issue is that in creating a separately operating culture a rift was created and has been growing since. A one-degree shift doesn’t make a big difference for the first 100 yards, but after 1o miles you will be 308 yards away from where the other path lead.
There isn’t a place in scripture that calls us to be separate from the world. Over and over again we are called to love our communities and be Christ to them. Being in the world and not of it should not look like shunning the things that contain sin, but rather not participating in the sin while being a part of the culture. Why do Christian movies suck? Because they abandoned the amazing resources of the film industry to make their own stuff. The main reason that any sub-par Christian media continues is because we compel our parishioners to support Christian endeavors.
It is the same logic that dives us to support Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, the fact that they are part of our Christian culture makes us comfortable and happy (Though don’t get me wrong, I love both of those stores, but we all know there is a little bit of pressure to like them because of their values right?).
All of this comes out of a lack of faith in the work of Jesus. We are so consumed with right living that we don’t get close to sin. In an attempt to remain pure we build walls to keep the sin out, putting blockers on our computers, and avoiding the bad side of town. We have elevated our ability to be moral people over our unity with Christ. We don’t want to take Christ to the dark places of the world because we believe that darkness has some sort of power to snuff out the light.
If we really believed that we were united to Christ, we would see that we are actually, fundamentally being Christ to the people that we encounter. That is why Paul said that he was willing to be all things to all people. He wasn’t worried about being corrupted by the legalism of Judaism, or the hedonism of Hellenism because he is one with Christ.
There is no need to change culture, because Jesus doesn’t change culture. Jesus changes people. We need to realize that the way that God changes people is by entering into the cultural mess that exists at the time. Jesus incarnated himself into Jewish society, and lived out His sanctifying life for all to see. As Christ’s ambassadors we ought to do the same, being incarnated (in flesh) to the culture we are in. It is pretty hard to be all things to all people when we aren’t willing to actually take part in the society that we live in.
I understand that things are changing for the worse. I understand that it is amazing how much the United States has changed in some of my brothers and sisters’ life times. I understand that I am young, and have basically always lived in a post-modern secularized society. It is easier for me to say because I am a product of the new culture that has grown in the past 20 years. It is easy for me to be a Chicagoan to the Chicagoans. But please hear what I have to say with as much love and grace and passion that I can muster: The culture changing for the worse does not mean holding out for what it used to be, but rather changing with it, and living out the life of Christ for all to see in it.