For the past few Sundays I have been teaching an adult class at our church on the subject of Changing Our World. Our takeoff point has been Ephesians 5:15-16. Here it is from the NIV translation:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
We discussed how to walk circumspectly (NJKV wording) in our world; how to live as wise people; and how to make the most of every opportunity or, as the NJKV reads, how to redeem the times. As Christians that’s why we’re here.
I want to make several observations about changing our world (redeeming the times) in the context of engaging our culture, because in many, if not most instances where we are going to make a real difference we will have to go into the culture rather than have the culture come to us. There are several reasons for this. One is that a great percentage of people in our culture don’t even know that we as evangelical Christians exist. They’ve never met anyone like us. Another reason is that even if they do know that we’re on the planet, they don’t think that we are relevant. To their way of thinking we don’t have anything that they either want or need. So they aren’t going to come looking for us – we’re going to have to go looking for them.
So what will that look like? What can we expect if we begin to engage our culture?
1. It’s bound to be messy. By that I mean we might end up in places we wouldn’t normally go. We might hear things that we would rather not hear. We might rub shoulders with people we’d never see in church. There’s going to be a messy quality to our engagement.
2. It will probably make most of us feel uncomfortable. As we’re in the culture the things we see and hear will make many of us feel uncomfortable. It’s not just a matter of what we see and hear – it’s the world views, the philosophies, the mind-sets, and the attitudes that we’ll encounter. They definitely won’t be Christian and we will probably feel like a fish out of water. This is especially true of the Baby Boomers. The younger generation of Christians won’t be affected as much, although this may hold true to some degree for them as well.
3. We won’t be loved. We spend most of our time with people who, if they don’t love us as least approve of us. But that won’t be true when we go into the culture. Christ went into the culture of His day and was criticized and mocked. He was even accused of being demon possessed. If it’s love that you want you won’t find it in the culture. Not if you live like Christ – that is, counter-culturally.
4. It will be a risk. The risk is that when you engage the culture, no one will listen. No one will care. So you have to ask yourself is what you have to offer worth the risk? Is the gospel story worth running headlong into the messiness and the opposition that is our culture today? As with anything worthwhile, it will involve a risk.
What we have to remember as we engage our culture is that we have the right story. We have what our culture needs whether anyone acknowledges it or not. Our goal is not to avoid the mess; not to be comfortable; not to be loved; not to live without risk. Our goal is to change our culture one person at a time; to make the most of every opportunity wherever God puts us; to redeem the times.
Stay in the Word