We were traveling in the U.S. and along the way spent some time with our youngest daughter. She told me about a book she had read by Pastor Kyle Idleman called, Not a Fan. She was really enthusiastic about how much this book had blessed and challenged her in her faith and Christian life, so I decided to get the book myself and check it out. The theme of the book is that we are not called to be fans of Jesus (people who cheer for him and put Jesus bumper stickers on our cars) but followers of Christ (people who understand that sacrifice and obedience are integral to what it means to be a Christian). I appreciate Pastor Kyle’s way of expressing this important truth and his emphasis on the fact that such a revelation is particularly needed in the Church of America at this time.
In another book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith shares 5 characteristics of an American theology held by American young people whatever their religious background. 1) A God Exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religious. 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. 5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
Sometimes we think America is such a conglomeration of different cultures that the result is that we are “culture free.” But in truth there is as much an American culture as any other. When we as Christians are conformed to this American, worldly culture, we are at odds with biblical Christianity. This is an hour in which we must be willing to be witnesses for Christ and to do so means living in conformity with His character even at the points where that means being out of conformity with prevailing social norms. The trick is to do this not in a combative manner but as an expression of the love of Christ.
Culture does exactly what Romans 12:1-2 warns us about, it tries to press us into its mold or way of thinking. I heard Christine Caine speak recently and her message was that in order to drift away from Christ and the truth we need to do nothing. Doing nothing will cause us to drift away because the cultural currents are not toward Christ, but away from Him. I might put it even more strongly. The culture around us is defined by the god of this world who Paul calls “the prince and power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:1-3).
Culture is not something that happens only in faraway places like Africa, it is where we all live.
Christ and to do so means living in conformity with His character even at the points where that means being out of conformity with prevailing social norms. The trick is to do this not in a combative manner but as an expression of the love of Christ.