When Culture and Christianity Clash
Jesus came to usher in a kingdom, not a culture. But what should we do when the culture we find ourselves in clashes with our Christian values? When it comes to the so-called “culture war,” what is the battle plan?
By Patrick Morley MIM Founder & Executive Chairman Winter Park, Florida
If you ever want an excuse to slip out of a party early, use “Christianity” and “culture wars” together in a sentence and give it a couple of minutes! Opinions around the topic of culture can be hotly divergent, but Jesus did not prescribe a set of cultural norms.
Christianity is meant to be lived inside different cultures. He didn’t ask Jews to stop being Jewish any more than He asks bikers to stop riding motorcycles. Jesus came to usher in a kingdom, not a culture. He came to bring salvation to all cultures—whether rich or poor, black or white, bodybuilder or geek, Republican or Democrat, Buddhist or Hindu, Muslim or Jewish, Protestant or Catholic, Boomer or Millennial. He’s content to let His kingdom operate within the traditions of whichever culture we find ourselves.Jesus came to usher in a kingdom, not a culture. Click To Tweet
But what should we do when the culture clashes with our Christian values?
Our Role in a Culture War
Christians are not responsible to win a culture war. We have tried. It has been frustrating and many are angry.
Yet if the last 50 years have shown us anything, it’s that the more angry and polemic Christians become, the less non-Christians listen to us.
If it is the will of God for us to redeem culture, how will it happen? It won’t be because we are smarter, more strategic, more articulate, more determined, better organized, more powerful, better funded, better led, have a better plan, or work harder. It won’t happen because we shout louder or believe we’re right.If it is the will of God for us to redeem culture, how will it happen?Click To Tweet
You can’t get flowers just by pulling weeds. If you want flowers, you have to plant flowers. If culture is to be redeemed, it will not be because we remove evil, but because we grow the kingdom of Jesus. And that, of course, will leave less soil for weeds to grow, even though Jesus said weeds will be allowed to grow beside the wheat.
If we really want to redeem culture, then, let’s go and make disciples. Let’s tell people about Jesus and bear witness to His transforming power in our lives. That is how we grow the kingdom of Jesus—and the only way to win a “culture war.”
If making disciples is the battle plan, then what is our weapon? Jesus did not say, “All men will know you are my disciples if you win the culture war.” Rather, He said they will know it “if you love one another.”
Love must be our weapon of choice. It’s worth remembering: The only thing that counts for anything is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
THE BIG IDEA: The only way for Christians to win a “culture war” is to grow the kingdom of Jesus, and the weapon of choice must be love.
Cultural Engagement Through Community
When it comes to the culture, we do not embrace. We do not withdraw. We do not overthrow. We engage. Jesus means for us to live out our Christianity right where we are, in love. That’s the mission.
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon offers this guidance:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’” (Jeremiah 29:4-7, ESV)The only way for Christians to win a “culture war” is to grow the kingdom of Jesus, and the weapon of choice must be love. Click To Tweet
As we engage in our communities, God will orchestrate our collective good deeds for His greater good.
Yes, we may lose the “culture war.” But if that is the will of God for this time, then let’s not go down swinging. If we must go down, let’s go down loving—because even if we’re right, we’re wrong if we aren’t known for our love.
And if God should grace us to win the culture, it will not be because we destroyed “them,” but because by our love they became disciples, too.
So let’s go plant some flowers.