Culture Shock

Image by Devanath from Pixabay

I’ve never been to another country, other than Canada, but does that count? But I can imagine I wouldn’t do so well with a different culture. I had a missionary friend in Bible College who spoke from his passion and told me I should get on the mission field.

I told him that was not how I felt God calling me. America needs Jesus too. Besides that, I told him that if nobody pastored these American churches, who would send him money every month? He immediately replied, “I feel God is calling you to pastor a large congregation in America.”

I hear Christians putting this culture down and wishing we returned to the 40s or 50s. They drip with nostalgia as they talk about how Christian the culture was back then. But the mistake any of us could make is to think any culture of any time in history was a godly one.

There are always pockets of godly Christians within every society. But no culture or society in this world is completely godly. The only place that Christians will find that environment is in God’s kingdom. And Jesus sat that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Approaching Our Culture

This might sting a little for some Christians. They may be too comfortable in this world. The church has been sleeping for some time. Maybe this blog post will wake you up if you’re too comfortable here.

We live in a culture that doesn’t outright kill Christians. But in America persecution comes through verbal assaults and attempting to force us to not only tolerate opposing views but accept and promote them. News stories report Supreme Court cases that show how Christians are being targeted.

A gay couple sued a Christian-owned bakery for not making their wedding cake, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in the bakery’s favor. Christian-owned Hobby Lobby won its press involving contraceptives because of their religious views on the matter. Chick-Fil-A employees have been harassed in the past.

The more I think about the Christian bakery, the more I wonder, “How well do Christians make great gay wedding cake?” That’s what I mean by targeting Christians. It’s not our forte. Christians must represent Jesus with kindness and truth.

But how should Christians interact with their culture, if at all? Christians have followed three paths on involvement with culture. Christian groups like the Amish tout the first approach. They choose the isolation model where they separate from culture and build their own separate from society.

The second culture involvement model runs the other way and embraces the culture wholesale. Such an embrace is dangerous when the culture has no godly principles, built on a foundation without them.

The third culture involvement model places itself between these other extremes. It interacts with culture through evaluation. Christians in this model sift every cultural idea through a biblical and Christian worldview before they accept or practice it.

Each one of these models has benefits and drawbacks. The isolation model locks itself away and there is no opportunity for evangelism outside of the group. Members of society are weary of such isolationists.

But, it is also a good model for new Christians who are not yet mature enough to interact with society without being influenced by it. It also produces a tightknit group that is almost always on the same page. It allows Christians to practice their faith in peace without outside influence.

The culture embracing model accepts and practices every cultural norm that comes its way. It has no option for influencing anyone else. Seeing Christ’s transformation may be harder to find. Under this model, Christians successfully embed themselves into the culture. People accept them and treat them well.

The culture-evaluating model can range anywhere in between the other two. It allows Christians to decide if a cultural norm meets Bible standards and pleases God before they accept and practice it.

These Christians show life change Jesus brings publicly. They share their faith and demonstrate a difference from the world. They are more likely to influence their culture rather than culture influencing them.

But the drawbacks of this approach are that the culture may criticize or persecute them for not accepting cultural norms and the believer must be mature enough to evaluate the culture according to biblical standards.

I have my favorite but believe that several of these approaches, even combined at different points in our Christian walk, can be helpful. Above all, no matter how much we interact with our culture and society, we must listen to the Holy Spirit as our guide.

Many Canaanite countries surrounded the Israelites in the Old Testament. God wanted his people that represented him and knew him most to show these other cultures the benefits of doing him. There is no law like Mosaic Law. God did that on purpose.

In the same way, Christians look different from the world. This is gives us the opportunity to show the world what Jesus is like. I haven’t met anyone neutral about Christ.

Whether a person uses his name as a curse word or thinks he was a good, moral teacher, everyone has an opinion about Jesus. I think of all of those nations and places that have never heard the name of Jesus. And then I think of how Western culture has heard him, tried him, and moved on.

We can argue all day about which culture is harder to reach. My view is that it’s harder to show Jesus to a culture that has already tried and rejected him. But that is the culture I am built to reach. Missionaries also have a very difficult job ahead of them.

Anywhere we proclaim Christ has its share of difficulties. But we can make life easier for ourselves when we appeal to the culture. How can people accept Christ if they reject us?

While God gives his grace period to win the lost to him, there is no hopeless or lost cause. I’ve heard many stories of Jesus breaking through the most concrete impossibilities. No one is so far gone that they can’t know Jesus.

Culture can get in the way but it can also produce the perfect foil to present him. When I was in Bible College, a missions professors had us read a book called The Peace Child. Even in the midst of a cannibalistic culture, the missionary proclaimed Jesus to the people.

They didn’t share the Bible’s values. They saw Judas as the hero of the story! The missionary realized he could not tell Bible stories for them to mean anything to these people. We have the benefit of a Christian foundation but more and more we see people without biblical literacy.

This is the reason Jesus called us to this world. He called us to speak his name and share his teachings and good news. As Paul said, let us not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). The time is short and we have many cultures to reach for Jesus.

Let us forge ahead until the day are Savior returns for us. We’re in the fourth quarter but the game is far from over. Make the most of every day and every opportunity because we don’t know how much longer we have to influence our world for Jesus.

Leave a comment and tell me how you present a positive approach to winning the lost in your culture.

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