When it comes to wars, the best ones are the ones where one side doesn’t know they are even in a conflict. That makes it quite easy for the aggressor to win, quickly and handily. Such wars are being fought for our very souls at the moment but we aren’t even aware of it. It’s the whole frog in the kettle thing all over again.
The water is getting warming and we’re about to be burned but we’ve been mostly comfortable so no alarms are going off.
The tension between the impulse to retreat totally and the dangers of being in the culture are palpable. It’s easy to choose option one and run away. It’s easy to choose option two and become one with the culture around us. The rub (as the Bard would say) is walking that line down the middle, being in the world but not of the world. The third option.
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:15-16).
In the past few generations, we’ve seen the church try this and fail miserably. And I think we have failed not because our ultimate desire is to be one with the world. We have failed because we’ve been busy trying to carve out a place in the prevailing culture rather than being about the work of building our own culture.
The Kingdom of God is our culture. What naturally comes out of our minds and hands when we are about the pursuit of the expansion of God’s kingdom? Great art, great music, businesses that are a delight to their customers and serve well their communities, beautiful architecture. We can read about the times when the church was the dominant institution in the life of a village or city. We got from that cathedrals and Bach, great periods of peace and prosperity, the printing press, the expansion of education to the poor, hospitals, charitable organizations, inventions that served mankind then and many which remain even today.
Great strides forward for mankind that benefited both Christians and pagans came from a singular dedication to Christ and His Kingdom. When we became enamored with the prevailing culture, we’d try to Christianize their culture. But God has a different view of the pagan culture. When the Israelites encountered it, they were told to destroy it completely, not to try and redeem it.
So we take schools that deny the person and work of Christ and try to bring a moment of silence into them.
We take the misuse of our money that is going from us to the government to enslave the poor and we try to make that system work better.
If we got appointed to a commission to oversee Mixed Martial Arts, rather than putting an end to this barbarism, we’d try to pass a measure that they taped hands they use to beat each other senseless should be made of softer stuff.
Rather than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, we should be about building our own ship, our own culture. Were we to be busy with creating an accurate expression of our love and devotion toward our God, we’d no longer have time to waste with the silliness around us, we’d be too busy at our thing.
Remember when the hospitals and the orphanages were ours? When the churches we built were amazing works of art? When Christian artists and musicians created timeless art? Neither do I. It’s been awhile.