As we look in the world today, we see all kinds of things that are obviously contrary to God’s purpose and his will. As Christians we should not only be revulsed by these things, we should be evaluating them in terms of God’s will and be working to promote his purpose over the evil that goes against him. Just what kinds of things are we specifically talking about here?
Some of those things are deeds that are played out in individual lives and spill over into society in general. These days we see strong advocacy for things which cheapen human life such as abortion and euthanasia. We see intense propagation and widespread acceptance of deviant behavior such as homosexuality, adultery, fornication, polygamy, and the use of pornography. We also see acceptance and widespread abuse of chemical substances which damage individuals and society.
In addition to deeds, we also observe certain prominent bad attitudes which are contrary to God’s purposes. Certainly, these kinds of attitudes are, and have always been, widespread, even among Christians. But in our day, we seem to be in a period where the intensity and direction of these attitudes are working particularly strongly against God’s purposes. In both business and government we see an extremely high level of selfish greed, and a lust for power. Throughout every level of society we see powerful expressions of hatred and a lack of civility. We see such a colossal sense of meaninglessness that people are doing hugely immoral and breathtakingly foolish things to fill the void. And a massive level of pure selfishness has become part and parcel of the very society.
Beyond the deeds and attitudes there are all kinds of non-Christian beliefs which are so prevalent that they flavor every part of modern culture. These beliefs are so pervasive that they even influence the beliefs and actions of many Christians and Christian churches. We see these non-Christian beliefs creating a culture where naturalistic relativism, rather than a belief in objective truth, forms the foundation for decision making. We see huge numbers of people believing in reincarnation, karma, an impersonal life force, essential human connection with nature and other tenets of non-Christian worldviews.
Given the situation in which our society has drifted away from the Christian faith in all of these ways, how should we, as Christians, think about and engage our culture? This is not a frivolous or academic question. It is extremely practical and actually goes to the very heart of God’s will for Christian living.
Why Engage the Culture War?
There are Christians who really believe that there should be a wall of separation between the spiritual and the physical. They believe Christians should be focused only on God and stay out of engaging in the “things of this world” – even if there is a compelling moral issue that is being dealt with in society.
But this is not a Biblical approach to dealing with life. When God made mankind, he put us in charge of the world as his stewards. That management responsibility doesn’t just involve personal finances and our participation in church. It involves every part of God’s creation. Much of that management must be done on a societal level, which means that Christians must engage the culture politically, economically, morally and in every other way.
The fact is, the way that society expresses itself has massive effects on the people who live in that society. It is not just about what individuals can and cannot do. It is about what is considered acceptable and the influences which result from that. To give just one example; when abortion was not legal there were some abortions done, but they were relatively few and far between. When abortion became legal the number performed skyrocketed. The principle behind this example can be carried over to virtually any topic. What is acceptable will increase. This concept is important on two levels.
First, it is important on a spiritual level. People without Christ are eternally separated from God. As Christians we ought to care about that. In our day, it is acceptable (not merely legal) to follow any belief system one desires. In general, our society is “tolerant” and accepts relativity as its guiding principle. Any belief is considered true if it is sincerely held and meets one’s needs.
But that is simply not a true statement. Any belief which is other than what is taught in the Bible is not true and it separates a person from God. So, based on the principle above, when true belief is considered to be simply one’s personal choice, many more people will choose a belief which is “convenient” to their lifestyle and more people will end up being separated from God.
The second reason this concept is important plays out on a physical level. Many of the non-Christian beliefs which are now prominent in the public square are destroying human life and society. As concrete examples of this problem, we need look no further than our culture’s acceptance of the casual taking of human life in abortion and euthanasia, toleration of all kinds of illicit and deviant sexual behavior, widespread proliferation of government programs which make people dependent on handouts and the attribution of immoral behavior to illness rather than to personal decisions.
Each of the things listed destroy human life and the social fabric of the culture. And while many will give lip service that these are bad, there is very little effort by society as a whole to turn them around. They are acceptable by default. And what happens when they are acceptable? More people participate in them.
So, what we have is a situation where non-Biblical beliefs have created an environment where destructive behavior (both spiritual and physical) are acceptable and expanding. As people who were given the responsibility to be God’s stewards in the world, it is critical that Christians accept our responsibility and become engaged in every part of society to promote the kingdom of God.
How Should We Go About Engaging the Culture War?
Once the “why” is settled, it is time to turn our attention to figuring out how we should go about engaging the culture war. In the process of making this determination, it is essential that we remember the platform from which we are working. As Christians, an “end justifies the means” mentality will not do. Not only are we striving to accomplish the work of the kingdom, we must also do it in a way which is consistent with the character of God. We are to fight the war with meekness.
On the other side of the leger, we must be sure that we understand the true meaning of meekness. Many people mistake meekness for weakness. Meekness is humility before God. Weakness is giving in to the other side. It is absolutely possible to stand strong in the face of the enemy, but do it in a way which honors God.
Our most important example is Jesus himself. He generally did not go out of his way to try and trample his detractors. Every time he engaged other people, it was always with the purpose of God at the forefront. He was trying to help them have faith in God.
That being said, he also did not allow his detractors to push him around. It was not uncommon for him to stand strong against the religious leaders of his day and even put them in their place. On a couple of occasions he even trashed the temple by turning over the tables of the money changers. But whenever he took strong action like that, he was not trying to simply win a temporary battle with those who were going up against him. He always had in mind to point people to God.
And we must have the same attitude. It is not okay to kill the abortion doctor to stop abortions. But it is alright to take legal and other demonstrative means to do it. Whatever means we take must be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we are trying to use human means to win spiritual battles. And when we do that, the result will never be the accomplishment of the purposes of God. Winning the culture war is not merely a matter of stopping wrong or bad behavior. It involves the changing of hearts and minds so that wrong behavior subsides on its own.
So, to fight this battle, what must we do? There are six steps in our process.
Step 1 – Affirm our authority source.
No point of view is any stronger than the validity of its authority source. In the case of our Christian faith, we are talking about the Bible. Simply put, if the Bible isn’t true then we don’t have a leg to stand on in advocating for Christian values. If it is true, however, we have a very powerful foundation. And the fact is, the Bible is true and there is very powerful evidence to support that position – more powerful than the evidence that can be put forth for any other point of view. The better we understand our foundational beliefs and the more effective we are in articulating them, the more effective we will be in our ability to promote God’s purposes through our lives.
Step 2 – Commit to following the Bible’s teachings no matter the opposition.
Once we have affirmed our authority source, our next step is to make a commitment. Our commitment, no matter the topic, is the source of our strength. Without a commitment we are destined to cower or quit in the face of opposition. And you can be sure that opposition will come if you decide to take a stand on Biblical principles. The stronger your commitment, the greater your ability to endure the struggle you will face.
Step 3 – Recognize that the actions we take in following our authority source are not legalistic, but involve a personal purpose – God’s.
As Christians, we do not advocate for particular points of view just because they are written in the Bible. Rather, we advocate because we recognize them as the will and purpose of God. This distinction is very important. We must always keep our motives based on the personal, not the impersonal. The purpose is God’s. The reason we know the purpose is because God has revealed it to us in the Bible.
The differences between the two are sometimes hard to discern because the actions of those following a personal path and those following a legalistic path may, outwardly, be very similar. That is because both actions are derived from the same authority source – the Bible. The difference is in the motive. One does it merely because it is written in the book, the other does it as an expression of their personal relationship with God. Motive counts a lot in God’s eyes and it affects the means we use to accomplish the purpose.
Step 4 – Discern how we are to live out our beliefs.
God’s calling on the lives of different people can have very different expressions. Some he wants out front. Some he wants working behind the scenes. Some he wants doing academic work. Some he wants doing activist work. The particular way we express God’s working in our lives is individual according to his calling. The Bible describes it as the work of a single body with each body part having its own function. As individuals, we need to discern where our place is in the body, then begin serving God in the particular way which accomplishes that purpose in our lives.
Step 5 – Be willing to step into the fray no matter the costs and the results.
When we step 100% into the fray and stand absolutely on principle in the face of opposing worldviews, you can be absolutely sure that there will be opposition. There are certainly rewards to standing strong this way, but there are also costs. Depending on the situation the costs may include ridicule, ostracization, or possibly even physical attacks. It is critical that we be aware of the possibilities and steel ourselves for what may come.
Step 6 – Continuously evaluate to make sure that we are keeping the purpose of God, rather than an earthly cause, first and foremost.
Whenever we make the decision to engage the culture war, we must make sure that we keep our motives pure, and that our focus is on accomplishing God’s purpose, rather than our own. Without that, what we do doesn’t count for much in God’s economy. To keep ourselves on track, it is important to constantly monitor our results and our motives and make adjustments as needed.
How Will You Engage?
Whether or not we want to take an active part in engaging the culture war to promote the purposes of God, we still find ourselves in the middle of it. God is actively working in the world to promote his purposes and he is working through people who decide to allow him to do so. On the other side, Satan is actively working in the world trying to undermine God’s purposes and is working through the lives of those who have set themselves against God. So, you are in the middle of it whether you actively do anything or not.
The question is, “Are you willing to let God use you for his purposes?” To become active in God’s work will require effort on your part. It will require getting up to speed on the worldviews which inform anti-God actions and activities. It will require becoming proficient in the tenets of God’s revelation. It will require that you interact with people in the world and advocate for God’s purposes. And, it will require a commitment to become an active participant in the purposes of God. If you are willing to walk this road, you can expect hard labor and stiff opposition. On the other hand, you can also expect wonderful fellowship with God and other believers, and you will receive tremendous satisfaction that you are making a difference in the work of God’s kingdom.
© 2010 Freddy Davis