In our previous post we saw how Jesus engaged the world. He entered in and sought to transform the culture within which he lived. He did so with passion, without regret, and in perfect holiness. He did so to the point that he was called a “drunkard” and a “glutton”. This is our model.
How do we apply it?
The first question that I hear murmuring is, “He was God. It’s different isn’t it?”
No. It’s not different. That kind of reasoning has no place here in the quest for the engagement of culture. It can’t. If it did then we ought to say, “He was God, therefore we shouldn’t disciple, because it’s different.” We could allow this line of thinking to go in any number of directions.
No, it’s better to say that Jesus did it, therefore, we must try.
The next thing I hear murmuring through your mind is, “Not everyone is called to this. What about the weaker brother in Romans?”
I hear your concern. I think in some sense it’s an appropriate one. I don’t think it should rule the day. The thinking becomes similar as the previous statement. The “stronger” brother has a responsibility to help the weaker grow. He should not flaunt his freedom (which is Paul’s concern) but should help his brother grow and become strong. To remain stagnant is not what Paul is arguing for.
How do we engage with a broken culture and transform it while maintaining our holiness?
That’s the question.
I think we first need to realize that we need to start at the place of discernment. We each have different capacities and different amounts of freedom. Some of us will be able to engage in different cultural activities and others will look elsewhere. These differences are what make us the body. Discernment requires us to pray, to study, and listen.
We must not allow discernment to be a vague form of legalism though.
To avoid this we must believe the best in those around us.
This caveat must not be a license to sin. The thing about sin is that you typically know it when you see it.
Along with discernment there must also be engagement. The engage means that we are moving out critically. We are not simply taking in but we are evaluating, critiquing, and seeking understanding. This also requires us to have a “telos” or goal of transformation.
If we are simply seeking to be entertained then we are not following Jesus’ example.
If we withdraw from the world then we are not following Jesus’ example.
If we engage, transform, and then begin to create culture, we are following Jesus’ example.
There is so much we complain about and worry about. What would happen if believers created culture on the basis of the Christian worldview? What about education? Politics? Art?
We would find films rated R, G, PG, PG-13 because life, reality, is represented by all of them. We would find horror films, we would find romance, comedy, action, violence, sex, redemption. We would find these because they are part of the Scriptures and reflect reality.
We engage culture because we are human. We seek to transform it because we image bearers.