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Counter-culturalism 101

I sometimes feel like there needs to be a course in how to effectively be different from ‘the world.’

There are times that it seems like we’ve changed the Scripture to read that we must be ‘of the world but not in it.’  When did holiness and purity become ‘untrendy’ in the church?

If I go to an active church member’s birthday party and a person well-known as a pastor, trying really hard to be hipster, is smoking a Cuban cigar and he refers to it to those around him jokingly as burning incense; what am I to think?

If after Youth group on a Friday night, most of the worship band get into a few cars and hit the night clubs talking about alcohol as ‘enjoying the afterglow’; what am I to think?

If I’m on a job site and some men who identify as Christians are using filthy language and degrading women through dirty jokes, what am I to think?

If I’m at a dinner and after a few bottles of drink each, two church members with few inhibitions left, start arguing angrily and loudly on one side and two ‘mature’ Christian women sit and slander a sister through their gossip on the other side; what am I to think?

Why would I think that Christians were any different to anybody else?  How does God benefit from our behaviour?

More and more I see the church adopting the culture of the world.  I hear young people refer to Christian leaders who smoke and drink and swear as ‘down-to-earth’ but is earth where we are going to find salvation or is it Heaven?  Where should our cultural focus be?

Is harming our body and wasting our money for the sake of appearing ‘cool’ and ‘real’ a good thing?  Sometimes we try hard to create an ‘image’ that will be acceptable to a world consumed by fashions and fads.  “I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

Romans 12:2 urges us:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  My experience is that the most effective way to have your mind renewed is to immerse it in the Word of God.  The more we read the Bible, the more we think with the mind of Christ.  First Corinthians 2:16 speaks of how the Holy Spirit reveals to us the wisdom far beyond human wisdom that transforms our minds into the mind of Christ.  Human wisdom says that by smoking and drinking and swearing, by acting exactly like the world, we are being relevant and people can relate to us.  In contrast, the mind of Christ exhorts us not to cause a brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13 and 10:32 and Romans 14:13-23) and to throw off the things that hinder us, that aren’t useful or that slow us down from running to and for Jesus.  In fact, Hebrews 12:1 distinguishes between the sin that entangles us and the things that hinder us, as two different things.  It tells us to throw them both away… so the things that hinder us may not necessarily be sin, but they are things that slow us down and make us less effective.

All through the Bible we discover things that are sin that entangle us, things that hinder us from running the race and things that we can do to let our light shine before others that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).   For example Ephesians 4:29 says to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”   Colossians 3:8 tells us that we must also rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Instead, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things Philippians 4:8).  John 13:35 says that our love for one another will prove to the world that we are His disciples.  This is how we make ourselves different.  This is how we let our lights shine.  If we practice and live in the extraordinary, supernatural love of Christ, then surely we will care more about rescuing people than proudly impressing people with our coolness.  Surely we will want the best for our brothers and sisters rather than holding up to them being ‘of the world’ as the best we can offer.

Now I’m not saying that Christians need to be perfect to be different to the culture of the world, but we should at least be striving to have enough of the wisdom and maturity in Christ that we are grieved when we don’t stand out, rather than celebrating and rationalising it.  We can do better to let our light shine, Church.

Ever changing; Thy Kingdom come

Jonathan

 

 

 

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