Many of my older readers remember when even men showing skin on television was considered rather shocking. Now we are force-fed a regular diet of sexually explicit video and dialogue. And most of us are past the point of blushing. These things are so commonplace now in our society that I’m afraid we have reached the place where we’re less concerned about the actual changes — and more concerned with what other people will think of us if we actually stand up and be a voice of dissent.
Tolerance is the mantra in our ever-changing culture. Yet nowhere in my bible have I ever found anything remotely close to “Be ye tolerant one of another.” It’s simply not there. Of course, the most interesting thing I notice is that tolerance is not only expected, it is practically mandated by the culture in which we live — that is, unless Christians are viewed as the troublemakers. Somehow this notion of tolerance does not seem to readily transfer to followers of Christ. It’s a curious thing to some, but it’s really not a surprise at all to me.
I’m frequently asked about my views on Christianity and culture. And I definitely have my opinions. However, I believe that before the Church can effectively permeate the culture, we must be absolutely certain that we have a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ! I contend that all across America, our pews on Saturdays and Sundays are sprinkled with people who are what I call nominal Christians. They’re Christians in name only. When placed under a microscope, the lifestyles of these people would be virtually indistinguishable from those in the culture who do not know Christ. And that sad fact constitutes a major part of the problem we face in transforming our culture.
As many of you know, I do not hesitate to share my views with those in government. I am grateful for those who have died for my freedom to have such a voice, and I would consider it a travesty to not appropriately voice both my approval and condemnation of specific actions. But as for transforming our culture, I’m not even sure that’s the goal. I believe that the power of Christ transforms people on an individual basis, and from there each individual, through sharing, caring, and loving people with the Gospel, has an opportunity to permeate the culture. This happens in their families, their schools, their workplaces, and their neighborhoods.
When I hear people complain loudly about the seeming persecution of Christians in our society, I am frankly appalled at times. Why? Because we know that the world will hate us — since it hated Christ first! Jesus was mocked, spat upon, humiliated, tortured, and crucified for sins He did not commit! He was the innocent party! Each of us, even as believers, are not without sin. He bore our sin and our shame on the cross.
But certainly not His cross.
I am convinced the real issue of our day as Christians is not about whether America is a Christian nation. The real issue is whether ‘Christian’ people are becoming like Christ.
After all, Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25, NIV)
And where was it that Jesus went? He traveled down the road of suffering and shame. He was crucified, He was buried, and He rose again! And therein lies the hope of everyone who believes. Jesus’ life on this earth was not a cakewalk. Why in the world would His followers expect theirs to be any different?
As Christians we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which parts of Christ’s life we’ll follow. We must share in His joys and His sufferings. (2 Cor. 1) We must count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2-3) We must give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:18) And we must hold fast to our faith and be obedient to Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” that He has commanded. (Matt. 28:19)
Yes, that is still our goal! And we must remain focused on it, come what may.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)
The best indication of personal transformation in the life of a believer comes during times of difficulty. Such transformation is exactly what is needed in order to even have a hope of transforming the culture.
I have a strong suspicion that as our culture continues to change, there will be a very clear separation of wheat from chaff. And those who are merely warming pews at their convenience and using the church as a social club are in for a rude awakening.
I’m reminded of the words of an old hymn that says it best: “Lord, send a revival. . .and let it begin in me!”