It amazes me how all God has to do to change our perspective is just to whisper a word. He knows us inside out, and exactly how that word will change our minds and shape our hearts. Like I shared at the beginning of the year, these days I only write when God places something on my heart; so, I thought I’d let you in on my process for this topic.
The Starting Point
Spending time alone with God in order to discern His voice is one of those important parts of relationship with Him. Being a stay-at-home mom, still responsible for the care and schooling of eight children, I don’t get much quiet time, even when I lock myself away. If you can’t use the bathroom without a child knocking on the door in the first twenty seconds, you know what I mean. God has found a solution for this problem. Sometimes He wakes me up at night. Usually, He whispers to me as I am waking up. Not long ago, I was throwing back the covers when I heard Him saying, “Christianity is a culture.”
My immediate response… “Of course it is.”
My delayed response… “Why are you telling me this?”
The natural result is that I meditate on that, seeking God’s perspective. The first thing I did was to stop and look up exactly what culture is. “Culture” is not used in scripture, but the dictionary says that culture describes “the arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and other products of human work and thought considered as a unit, especially with regard to a particular time or social group.” It is also “the set of predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize a group or organization” or “some special training and development.”1
The first place that my brain goes when you put Christianity and culture together is to think, “counter-cultural.” I think of the recent mini-series, The Chosen, and I see the one little fish swimming upstream through the multitude of fish who are swimming downstream; I remember recent articles that say we have entered the post-Christian era (which just turns my stomach). It feels discouraging. But then I remember that the disciples were the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit and carry the Gospel into the world. The very name, apostle, meant that someone was a representative of a kingdom, sent into new places to change the culture to match their own.
There are cultures and there are subcultures. Tight cultures (stable tenets) and loose cultures (changeable). If I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, then that is my primary culture. Everything else comes under the authority of Christ. If my Central Minnesota, USA culture contains any beliefs, customs, attitudes, behaviors or institutions that are contrary to the law/tenets of God, they are not an option for me. Christianity is a tight culture. I cannot work my Christianity around my circumstantial, world culture. I have to stand firm in my faith and work to bring my world culture into conformity with my Kingdom culture. That feels emboldening. (What kind of culture is the Kingdom culture?)
The next place my brain goes is to consider how culture informs our standards in ways that we don’t even realize.
“Cultural norms are the standards we live by. They are the shared expectations and rules that guide behavior of people within social groups. Cultural norms are learned and reinforced from parents, friends, teachers and others while growing up in a society.” 2
Cultural norms are like habits. The cultural norms in the world around me can slant my understanding of the Kingdom culture. That’s a problem. I need the Holy Spirit to give me discernment and wisdom to understand the will of God (Colossians 1:1-14). 3 But also, when I think of culture as being a learned habit, I start to consider how the culture of Christianity is being transmitted to the next generation and the world around me. I grew up with a lot of “It’s my way or the highway.” As an adult, my husband and I got into ministry, and everyone was doing “Lifestyle Evangelism.” Are we only showing people how to live? Or are we also discipling, truly explaining what we believe and do with the why? Because if we are just providing examples without understanding, that type of culture is not sustainable. That would be tradition, and not relationship. Christianity is based on a loving relationship with God. I can do all the good works I can think of, but without a reconciled relationship with God, there is no power in them. They don’t save my life.
And that led me to the last step in my process… Luke, chapter 6. I was reading to my children when this chapter just popped. The Kingdom culture clashed with the cultural norm when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath; yet, Jesus explained that He was, and is, Lord of the Sabbath (verses 1-11). Jesus modeled Kingdom culture by spending the whole night praying before choosing His 12 disciples, “whom he also designated apostles.” He sought the Father’s will before making important decisions which would have a huge impact on the future culture! (verses 12-16) Jesus healed the sick and those who were troubled by evil spirits (verses 17-19), and He explained Kingdom economics, which are the polar opposite of this world (verses 20-26).
Jesus taught how the world loves those who love them, but Kingdom culture loves those who hate them. We are to lend without expecting a return. Be merciful because Father God is merciful (verses 27-36). Don’t judge. Be generous. Get yourself right before you try to correct others. Our lives reflect our hearts, and our hearts are supposed to reflect the heart of God, which is love.
So to answer my previous questions, what kind of culture is the Kingdom culture??? Christianity is a culture of love, which produces only good stuff.
The Landing Place
So what was God’s point? To change my perspective, that I may be encouraged… maybe you will be too.
Where does all of this randomness land me?
Our family took a vacation someplace far away just before Christmas. It struck me that “post-Covid” is the world, not just my corner. I don’t think there is anywhere to run away, though the atmosphere was somewhat brighter where we went. Just look at God’s handiwork!!
We came home and the weather, local news, conversations and more, were discouraging. Those are circumstantial and cultural things. There are so many strategies taking place in governmental areas that I do not agree with: school districts, city mandates, state and federal politics; but, I think what bothers me most are the comments I hear people making about those who are responsible for the hard circumstances… the grumbling and complaining, finger pointing and told-you-so’s as we watch how world events are unfolding. They don’t change anything, and if the people we are judging were to hear our conversations about them, would they be open to listening to us if we found ourselves in a place to share the Gospel with them? Would they believe that Christianity is a culture of love? The enemy certainly doesn’t want them to think so.
If I were to write a post about my conclusions, rather than my process, my 3 point sermon would be that…
*If we want to affect change, we have to love. Satan and his spiritual principalities are the enemies, not people who are being used by them. (Yeah, they are being used. We should pity that. We should experience some righteous anger about it.) We have to love the people who are making decisions that hurt us, because it’s only when we love and forgive that they can possibly be open to hearing anything we might have opportunity to share. If we shrink back in fear and discouragement, we will not do what we were sent to do, which is change the world culture by introducing them to our King and His culture. We need to acknowledge what is wrong in the world, but rather than spending our time criticizing our leaders, we need to pray for them, especially together. This is biblical. 5 God’s heart is for every person alive, as long as they are alive. If they die without Him, then it’s too late, but as long as they have breath, they are the one the Shepherd is out to find.
* We need to take our eyes off of what the enemy is doing and, instead, prayerfully focus on what God wants to do. Focusing on the enemy’s work gives him glory and drags us down. Focusing on God and His agenda glorifies God and frustrates the enemies plans. Satan wants us distracted and discouraged. God wants us to step into His planning center and be encouraged and empowered.
*Remember that it’s not about you. Really. Our current leaders are moving people more and more toward an entitlement mentality. Give me. Selfishness is the norm. To quote President Kennedy, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” 5 God told Abraham that He was going to bless him so that through Abraham all nations would be blessed. It was never about Abraham. It was about the mission of saving the world. Instead of looking for what each opportunity holds for you, look to be the blessing–to your family, your church, your community. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus with a posture to do for others. You will be amazed by the returns.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38, ESV).
~Bee Movie 6
If each member of the Body of Christ does their small job well, using their unique gifts and talents, keeping their focus on God’s mission, it makes a big difference.
More than we realize. To us. To everyone. 🙂
6 DreamWorks Animation ; Columbus 81 Productions ; Pacific Data Images ; produced by Jerry Seinfeld, Christina Steinberg ; written by Jerry Seinfeld and Spike Feresten & Barry Marder & Andy Robin ; directed by Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith ; head of character animation, Fabio Lignini. Bee Movie. Hollywood, Calif. :Paramount Home Entertainment, 2008.
Photos by Pixabay.