As I have grown, I have witnessed two major ways of Christians interacting with our culture. Either they shun the culture entirely, using Romans 12:2 as a basis: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” or they immerse themselves in the culture, with no distinct difference between the lost and the saved, using the passage of Scripture where Paul talks about being all things to all people:
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
While these are not the only two views; they are the two that I see most commonly in the society around me. While I disagree that we should “blend in”, as it were, in our culture, I also don’t believe that we should entirely shun the world and everything that is going on around us. That view is unbiblical: God calls us as Christians to take dominion over all things in this world, to be the salt of our world. To be the preserving agent of our society. And we can’t fulfill this command if we are ignorant about the issues of our world today.
We are called to be a peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…” And we are called to be peculiar to those around us so we can spread Christ’s glory through this world that is saturated in darkness.
We must prepare ourselves for this battle that lies before us – the challenge of engaging with the culture and keeping ourselves separate from the world – and doing so simultaneously. The challenge of taking up our crosses and following Christ, wherever He leads us. This means that we must be willing to be laughed at, picked on, humiliated, and shunned. We must have an attitude of surrender to the Lord, an attitude which says that we are His, that we desire Him to take us and use us however He sees fit. We must be willing to be a peculiar people for the Lord.
There are stages in life when we shouldn’t be as involved in the culture. During times in our lives when we are young and should be applying ourselves to learning all we can about our Lord, when we should be “studying to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:15)
When we are gleaning all the knowledge we can about theology, worldview, and attaining a God-honoring education. But when we are “finished” with the book-learning part of our education, when we are still at home, under our parents guidance, without a family of our own, is the perfect time to learn how to practically apply that knowledge. Yes, we will still be learning. In fact, we will be perpetually learning throughout our entire lives. And no, we won’t apply it perfectly. But if our parents have trained us up as children in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 22:6), then we are in the perfect position to apply that training in our lives during our single years at home.
David the Psalmist tells us that children are an heritage of the Lord, and explains why: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Ps. 127:3-5) A soldier knew how to effectively use arrows as a deadly weapon to defend himself against the enemy. We must do likewise. We as children with God-fearing parents are likened to arrows of a well trained soldiers – a deadly weapon to be sent out to bring death and destruction to the enemy camps.
My parents don’t have the time to fight the cultural battles themselves. They have a family to raise, a family to feed, a family to care for. They have taken the time to train and raise their children, and they send us out on missions, willing for us to be used how God directs. One day, if the Lord blesses me with a family and children of my own own one day, I no longer will have the time to engage myself in the same way as I do now. My responsibility will be to train the next generation to take up the battle where I have left off. It will be my children that will have the responsibility to go out and engage the culture.
Our church finished a study on the book of Judges about a year ago now, which was very enlightening. When it was started, I wasn’t sure how it would be applicable to my life today. But that mindset was quickly changed as I realized how very poignant this book is in our lives today. What does Judges have to do with our culture and the way we as Christians should be involved in our society?
Well, it is a book full of examples of what happens as people slip in the faith. Judges 3:4 says: “…to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord which He command their fathers…” It doesn’t say He gave the commandments to the children personally. Instead He gave them to the fathers and commanded them to teach their children “when they walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou riseth up…” This was written several thousand years ago, but is still the challenge we are facing today. Will we children – the second generation – turn our back on the teachings of our parents, ultimately the teachings of our great and mighty God?
What does it mean to be “involved” in our culture? Does it mean that we do the same things, like the same things, behave the same way, engage in the same activities that the world does? No! We are to be salt and light in the world and we are told that if the salt has lost its savor, it is only good to be thrown out (Matt. 5:13). If we Christians have lost our influence in society, if we have allowed ourselves to be carried away with the same pleasures and enjoyments as the world, then we may as well not be in the world at all, for all the good our “Christian testimony” is going to do. Matthew also tells us that we are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14) and as such we should not seek to hide that light Christ has given us from the world, ashamed of our Savior. We are told to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Being involved in our culture will look different for every family and every individual person, according to the convictions that the Lord has placed on our hearts; according to our strengths and weaknesses; according to the passions the Lord has given to us.
There are many ways to be involved in our culture today as Christians, many issues that need a Christ centered perspective on them. There are many cultural issues that need to be fought and alternatives that must created, if we are willing to launch head first into the world. If we are truly willing to be laughed at and mocked.
We need Christians who believe in the truth of Scripture alone to stand up and fight the abortion issue. Young people, my generation, both young men and women especially. We need to stop the murder of hundreds of tiny lives that happens each day. Someone once estimated that one third of my generation was murdered through abortion. Thinks about this sobering fact: one out of every three children have been murdered, legally.
We are having discussions about “gender identity” and homosexual “marriage”. We need Christians involved in our culture to stand strong in the Lord for the preservation of the Biblical family unit. We need families who are grounded in God’s Word to be an example to others. People are going to see you and question why you are the way you are, and we need people who can answer those questions for the advancement of the Gospel. We need young people who can call, and call out when needed, our law-makers in order to keep our elected officials accountable. Not only to those who elected them, but to the commands of God.
We need Christians to stand firm in the convictions of modest clothing for both guys and girls. We need young people who are willing to dress to please God, and not men. We need those whose clothing brings honor to the name of the Lord they claim to serve. Yes, God looks on the heart but man looks on the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). What we wear is very important, to men and to God. The clothing we put on gives out a message, a message that will be read by everyone you see.
As Christians, we should be reflecting Christ, and sending out a message that would be pleasing to Him. One that tells the world that we are His servants, that we seek to honor Him with our lives, that we are secure in what His Word teaches, and that we do not need the approbation of men. We need to convey the reality that we care for fellow believers and have no desire to tempt them with thoughts that would be sinful. Our clothing will tell others that we embrace the gender roles God has given to us, or that we have rejected His teachings in regard to those.
As those around us immerse themselves in the popular music, as they fill their time watching movies that glorifies and encourages the sin around us, as they waste time in playing video games that encourage sinful behavior, we need Christians to stand apart and be willing to speak the truth. We need young people who are bold and courageous to be willing to speak against the popular actors and actresses, the singers, the production companies, and point out the futility of the worldview that is sung about and enacted out.
In a world and society that is very sensual and alluring, we need young people who are willing to model purity and chastity to the world around us. In a group of guys and girls, to be the ones that aren’t loud, flirtatious, boisterous, or hanging all over each other. To be more focused on serving the Lord with our single years than we are on getting the most attention from the opposite gender. We need young people that will focus their attention on things of the Lord more than temporal worldly things.
Would it be worth compromising my purity to be with a group of guys and girls that I know are always seeking to gain attention by touching, acting foolish, and saying wrong things? Would it be worth it to skip church on Wednesday because, after all, it is just a Wednesday service, and I could have more “fun” with friends who are getting together? How about missing out on the Word of our Lord being taught, and gaining spiritually in areas that I am weak in? These are things that we must be asking ourselves, and be willing to answer honestly.
1 Corinthians 16:13 tells us to: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” My pastor recently taught on this verse, and one thing he said made me really stop and think about a lot of things. He said, “We are to remain faithful, and not give up heart, always rejoicing in God.” This is our challenge today, as young people in our culture. To remain faithful to what God has called us to do. To refuse to give up because the going gets tough, the world around us laughs at us. To remain joyful, happy, and content with where the Lord has placed us.
Think about it. Look around you and take a big view of our entire culture – the world’s and the churches’ both. Yes, even the reformed churches. And while you may be able to look around and see others who act ashamed of their Savior – who can’t be bothered with what their parents have taught them – do you think of yourself? Think of your spiritual life. Has the ardor and zeal you once served the Lord with cooled down? Are you as outspoken as you once were about the things of the Lord? Do you still gravitate towards the deep, challenging conversations, that make you excited about life in general, or do you head for the shallow, meaningless, “fill-up-the-time” conversations?
We are only useful as our parents arrows in that we are used to hinder the evil in our culture. If we children forsake our parents teachings, turning our backs on the things they have taught us as we have grown, and fall prey to the cultures standards, then we are not our parent’s arrows. If we don’t stand fast in the faith, if we don’t take a stand against the world’s allurements and entertainments, if we find them too attractive, too alluring, too pleasing to our fleshly desires, than we have failed our parents.
They have come up the mountain so far, and they desire for us to take up where they have left off. We have been blessed with the opportunity to start on our parents shoulders. They have carried us this far, now we need to start out on our own, fighting the battles that fall to us. We need to carry the next generation as far as we can, and then teach them to start where we have left off.
As we follow the Lord’s guidance in our culture, it won’t be easy. The challenges that our parents faced will be ours. We will have to say goodbye to some friends. We will face ridicule – not only from the world, which is expected, but by other believers. By our friends. Those we are closest to. This is what can hurt the worst. Perhaps this is what the Lord wants in order to challenge us, to test us. It is His plan to send us trials so we can become meek and patient under His hand. And we need to be praying that the Lord would use us, sinful as we are, to shed His glory into this dark world of sin.