I have come to believe in a certain concept that I would call a deep truth. I believe that in any given culture, the direction of the spiritual/religious philosophy will directly affect the direction of the culture itself. In other words, as goes the church, so goes the culture. What’s very interesting about this is that we as the church and culture, seemingly, are on opposite ends of the spectrum…or are we really…
We view the culture as being very self-centered, self-absorbed, immoral, unloving, materialistic, and maybe we could round out the list by saying inhuman. These opinions are not without foundation, as we see so many of these attributes displayed before our eyes every day… men and women so obsessed with their own idea of “happiness” that they could care less whose lives they destroy in the process of their own search… spending more money than we can imagine daily on the most vain of pursuits… destroying their very own bodies and lives in order to achieve some temporal sense of satisfaction and/or ecstasy. Meanwhile the Christian sub-culture sits back and looks downs its nose and shakes its head, disappointed, oppositional, and rejecting… rejecting of what we call sin. That is an interesting word as it has taken on some contextual meanings. To many in the church, sin is defined by specific actions or attitudes. A large number would agree on certain areas, such as drinking alcohol, getting tattoos, using profanity, doing drugs, etc. There is an ever growing list of things that fit into this idea of “don’ts” within the ideology as we constantly find more and more things to make rules about… somewhat losing sight of the original intent of God’s call away from sin. Perhaps we should define sin in a little more denotative way in order to see the problem with our current trajectory. God created us to be human…human. His goal for us was a perfect and innocent existence wherein we view the world rightly. In this we would see each other as His image-bearers, as well as the world as His beautiful creation that we should care for and appreciate. We would treat each other with great interest and concern, never using, exploiting, or manipulating each other. One of the ways I view sin is that it is a rejection of the roles and purposes for which we have been made. Therefore sin is rebellion against God as well as ourselves. some things we call “sin” may not be but many may well be called that if they drag us away from the intention of God’s design. God’s call for us to repent of sin is His call for us to return to humanity…to be what He intended for us to be…a humanity that manifests His love and perfection, glorifying Him through it all. When we attach static rules of black-and-white to determine what is and isn’t sin, then we have gotten away from the intentions of the heart…where sin really is committed. Everything is about balance…almost…because even though there are some very hard and fast standards (i.e. “you shall not murder”) there are also some things which we must determine the value of in relation to sin and righteousness. To err too far in one direction is to be legalistic and rigid, while erring too far in the other is licentious and immoral. While we need to be sure not to assign rules where no hard and fast ones are found Scripturally, we also need to be sure not to indulge in all things simply out of our freedom. Scripture says that all things are permissible yet not always profitable. Galatians tells us that we have been set free in order to be truly free, but that we should not use this as an opportunity to indulge our sinful desires.
The Christian sub-culture does not see its own shortcomings in this way…we don’t see that it is our materialism, indulgence, and self-centeredness that is catalyzing so much of what’s going on in the world around us. We are materialistic…we just like to say we’ve been “blessed.” We are indulgent…just not always over the same things…instead of drunkenness, many of us make multiple trips to the buffet. We are definitely self-centered…we are constantly complaining about what we do or don’t get instead of searching for what we can do or give. So many of our churches have become such industrial giants…doing things to “draw a crowd.” (Francis Chan pointed out that when Jesus spoke, people would often leave due to the gravity of His words) Within our own family of faith, we speak of our love and devotion to one another but our actions don’t follow suit. There are people in the world, human beings, without clean drinking water, without food, without the basic necessities of life, yet we will spend millions and millions on big buildings, fancy lights, sound systems, media, and so much more… I know some of these things are necessary…I’m not trying to say it’s wrong to have any of these things…it’s all about balancel…but all things considered, it’s truly all about what our goals are. What are our goals? Scripturally, our goals should be to make disciples from every people group in the world and to care for one another…but is that what we see our goals being as reflected in how we spend our money? How can we say that we abhor sin when we so often miss the true calling from sin to God? How can we say that we care about people when one of our foremost goals in the world isn’t to make sure that human beings have clean water? How can we say that we detest the sinfulness of the world when it is simply acting out what it sees us doing and not what it hears us saying?
Then we wonder why the world is so bad…we wonder why the culture acts so fallen and broken…could it not be that as the “light of the world” we have failed to shine and as the “salt of the earth” we have failed both to season the earth as well as preserve it? Here’s the real question: could it be that the reason the culture acts so lost is that the church is truly adrift in the sea of existence, having pulled away from that to which we were/are to be anchored? If we are lost, adrift, almost losing sight of God’s design, then how on earth can we see the lost found and the dead raised? How can we point our finger at the world around us and say, “I accuse,” having never stopped to evaluate the beam in our own eye, realizing that Jesus has placed us as the only hope for the world as we spread His message, not with mere words, but with deed and love.
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