The Christian Compass: How to Navigate Culture
We no longer live in a Christian nation. Some may argue, but when prayer is forced out of schools and the words “under God” are being eliminated in public spaces, the very roots and fundimentals of our “Christian” nation are being taken out from under us. Although Constitutionally, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the phrase “separation of church and state” has turned into a nation-wide elimination of all aspects of Christianity in public settings. With the gap between the two continuously increasing, it begs the question, how should Christians navigate culture?
Although the Bible calls us not to conform to the world, it is hard to imagine modern-day Christianity unscathed by our culture. Christianity has been affected; churches being progressively more than accepting of the numerous physical, sexual, and social changes which have occurred over the last few years. So, are we called to look past it all and live our own separated lives, or are we called to be Christian activists within our culture? While both ideas have merit, a Christian’s focus in life should simply be to know Christ and proclaim the Gospel. John MacArthur puts it, “Notice [in the Bible] Paul simply followed the Lord’s model and did not expend time and energy admonishing believers on how to reform pagan culture’s idolatrous, immoral, and corrupt practices. The apostle also did not call for believers to exercise civil disobediences to protest the Roman Empire’s unjust laws or cruel punishments. Instead, his appeal was for Christians to proclaim the gospel and live lives that would give clear evidence of its transforming power.”
Reading it, it may seem clear, but this is not the typical believer’s reaction. We want to either lay low, living out our faith in private or rally together and revolt against injustice. Titus 3:1-2 (ESV) tells us, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” We see that revolting is not the answer. Shying away is not the answer. Instead, like an athlete perfects his/her sport or a musician his/her instrument, Christians need to fine tune their relationship with Christ. In order for unbelievers to genuinely hear and receive the Gospel we live and preach, our hearts and lives need to reflect the spiritual maturity that we claim. As John Piper said, “Christianity does not destroy earthly culture even when it is rightly being embedded in it. It transforms it, but doesn’t destroy it.”
On our own, we will never be able to change culture. We can talk about a corrupt culture all we want, but when culture looks at self-proclaimed Christians and sees hypocrisy, their hearts harden and their ears close. Therefore, we shouldn’t focus so much on changing cultural norms that we forget about our relationship with Christ and sharing the Gospel. If those two things are done properly, change in culture will surely follow. When the world looks at us and our relationship with God is so intimate that they see Him and not us, then their hearts will be open and willing to hear the Gospel proclaimed. God takes ahold one heart at a time; when Christ takes ahold, our culture will be transformed!