Thursday, February 23, 2006

The kingdom and culture

When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, the Jews had three different attitudes towards the Roman occupiers.

  • Some of them responded to Roman occupation by withdrawing from society. These were the people at Qumran who gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • Some of them reacted with violence, trying to throw off the Roman yoke. These were the Zealots.
  • Some of them decided that the best way forward was compromise, to make the best of a bad situation. These were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

But Jesus did not fit into any of these categories. He engaged the culture without becoming caught up in the culture.

Today the church sees three similar choices with regard to the dominant culture of the world.

  • There are those who think we should withdraw from society. They send their kids to private Christian schools. They don’t go to movies. They avoid contact as much as possible with the “godless culture.”
  • There are those who think that we should fight the “culture wars.” We should protest abortion clinics. We should consolidate our political power and let our voice be heard. We should stand up for the values that our country was founded on.
  • There are those who say that we need to adjust the message of the gospel to accommodate the realities of the modern world. Kids are going to have sex, so we should encourage safe sex instead of abstinence. People have a right to be happy, so we should be more accepting of “alternative lifestyles.”
And Christians generally join one of these three camps.

Jesus appears to be calling us to something different. He said that we were not to remove ourselves from the world. He said that we were to be in the world but not to become a part of the world system. He said that he demanded our ultimate allegiance but that we shouldn’t pick unnecessary fights. We should, however, fight against all the forces of evil, oppression and exploitation.

He called us to engage the culture.

He said that it was like being salt in a bland world or a bright light in a dark world. He said that we should pray for God’s kingdom to be established in this world and for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He sent us into the world to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, not as a message of condemnation but as a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and hope.

Of course this means that we will have to take a stand on various issues. But a kingdom perspective will help us avoid the often-repeated mistakes of fighting unnecessary battles, of aligning ourselves with the wrong side and of remaining passive when action is required.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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