The other day I was sitting at Kaladi Brothers enjoying some studying time with a coconut mocha frappe. As I sit it any coffee shop, it is quite interesting to observe this cultural epicenter of our society. Culture in general fascinates me and it is likely one of the interests that God gave me for mission work.
As believers we are called to live in this world for the spread of Jesus’ fame. We are called to be in the world, but not to live for the world. Right? Question…How are we to influence this world for the spread of Jesus’ fame? As you look through Scripture, we read about Jesus’ highly relational attention to people. We see Jesus living in the culture of that day and confronting it with the truth of His Father. We also read about Paul’s sensitivity to the differing cultural worlds surrounding him throughout each town he traveled. As we further read and examine the Scriptural letters in the New Testament, we see a redeemed people living in a real world, wrestling with the same issue we wrestle with today: living in our world/culture for the spread of Jesus’ fame in an effective and yet holy way.
One helpful paradigm I stumbled across a couple years ago goes like this: 1. Receive 2. Reject 3. Redeem. As we peer at culture and our responsibility to live in it as redeemed mankind fashioned in God’s now sanctifying image, how do we flesh this out in a Jesus-honoring and balanced way? This 3-point paradigm I believe helps in this process. Like Jesus, Paul, the other apostles, and the early church, we must develop a God-centered lens from which we peer at our cultural world.
There are always aspects of culture that we can receive, enjoy, and adapt. Although apart from God’s provision we are utterly marred in sin, humanity’s God-given expressions of culture have beautiful traces of our Creator. We must learn to develop eyes to see these visible traces of God’s creation reflected in culture.
Likewise, there will inevitably be many aspects of culture that are evidences of humanity’s depravity. These must obviously be rejected. God has chosen, called, and saved us out of this deprave world to live as salt and light. There are many examples of even believers who wrongly contextualize their lives and the Gospel in culturally compromised ways.
Finally, these rejected aspects of fallen culture must ultimately be pointed toward redemption. Every deprave and rejected aspect of culture can be pointed toward redemption in light of Jesus and the Gospel’s implications for us His people, the church.
So my question, How are you looking at our world, our culture? How are you receiving and adapting to some aspects of culture? Are you properly discerning in this area? How are you rejecting aspects of culture? Are you properly discerned in this area? Have you compromised in this area? How are you pointing toward the cross, toward redemption, in our fallen world? Do you recognize this as part of your calling as a Christian?
As I sit in a coffee shop, I am observing culture. Coffee shops really are incredible epicenters in our cultural world today, at least in Western America (though I think it probably extends beyond just here). By studying in this environment occasionally, I get to see the continual flow of all kinds of people on their morning routine. Another observation... coffee shops are places where people love to hang out to study (like me) or places that simply foster a great environment for hanging out with friends. This is an interesting aspect of culture.
Similarly, many movie theaters reveal similar observations about culture. We could undoubtedly make many good and bad observations about culture from observing a typical movie theater.
Another obvious aspect to culture and values is observed in dress styles and how people choose to portray themselves in public. What does this tell you about some potentially good or bad observations of our culture?
Take any of these simple examples and apply them to numerous other scenarios…the grocery store, the home improvement store, any random restaurant, the outdoors (fishing, hunting), etc… What aspects of culture do you see from these different places?
Think for a moment about television. There are many aspects, good and bad, that we can observe from television, movies, and media in general. What kind of cultural agenda does today’s television and movies try to push? What are some good and bad observations we could make about our media?
Music is another great example. What type of music does our culture uphold as “accepted?” Why is that? What kind of lyrics are used in today’s music? What topics are referred to in music today? What are some good and bad observations we could draw out from music in our culture?
Maybe somewhat related to some other examples previously listed above, what type of places and times of the day do people gather for fun? Why do cities have such a big focus on nightlife? What age group of people are found hanging out together and when and where do they hang out? Why is that? What observations could we make?
And our examples could continue indefinitely!
As we learn to look at culture with attentive lenses filtered by the Gospel, we will begin seeing culture as a gift from our Creator God, but something also in dire need of redemption! How do you look at the culture around you? What are aspects of culture right now that you are enjoying? What are aspects right now that you are rejecting? How then are you seeking to point toward redemption in those rejected aspects of our marred culture?
These are I believe important Biblical principles for us to implement. As I stated, I have found this 3-point paradigm particularly helpful. It’s so easy to roll through life, either living in our own little world, missing opportunities to reach our culture for Jesus, or sometimes even living in culturally compromised ways. May we learn to develop Jesus-centered cultural lenses as we seek to live for the spread of His fame in our world!