We hear a great deal about the culture wars, often fretting because the church is seemingly losing it. (Or is it them? Is it just one war?) There is no argument that when the people of God are following the instructions of God that the world around them is impacted. Neither is there any question that the body of believers should be living a distinctive life of obedience that separates them from the rest of the world. However, let’s turn the tables and consider for a moment how culture impacts us, not our morals necessarily, but in our approach to faith and to being part of the church.
Individual vs. The Body
We highly value marching to our own beat, going our own way, finding our own path. We strive to be mold-breakers. While God created us as individuals and values our unique makeup, He calls us to be part of a body. Functioning as a community doesn’t come easily — or naturally — to us. It takes intentional effort. As we make the effort, we discover being a part of a community of believers is hard, and it’s messy. It reveals where we’re still selfish, where we still want our way, where we need to show more grace and where we need to have it applied. In short, it is essential for our growth. We will learn things as part of a community that we will never grasp on our own.
Democracy vs. The Spirit
We have a tendency to believe that the majority knows best. We vote on where we want to eat. We take polls about which sports team is best. We choose what movie to see based on which ones are popular. We make purchases based on reviews and ratings. We’ve arranged our government around that idea that we trust fifty-one percent of our peers will consistently make that best, most beneficial choices on the issues of the day. Right? Right. Maybe the flaws in this system are starting to come into focus. The church, in contrast, is to be led by the Holy Spirit, by God Himself. Not only does this ensure we head the right direction but God has always had a soft spot for the marginalized and the overlooked. Seeking the will of the Spirit over the will of the majority not only means our decisions are God-centered and wise but it protects the minority from being overrun.
Bootstraps vs. Dependence
We enjoy stories of people who started with nothing and rose to the top of their field, who overcame upbringing, circumstances, and naysayers. We root for the underdogs. But we also hide our failures. We cover up our weaknesses and deny our struggles. This is the opposite of how it is supposed to work. God places us in a body of believers so that we can learn together how to rely on God, and then in turn, lean on each other. We bear each other’s burdens, comfort and strengthen each other, encourage each other and on and on. We miss out on both ends of these blessings – giving and receiving – if we insist on doing everything on our own.
Following God is countercultural AND counterintuitive.
Paul instructs the Roman believers on that very subject. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2
Or as the NLT renders it, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
This doesn’t magically happen at the moment of salvation. It’s a process, one we have to be actively engaged in. The first step in that process is recognizing how culture influences us.