There’s a difference between engaging the culture as a follower of Jesus and seeking the culture’s approval.
As Christians, we are called to be the light and salt of a dark, dying world. We’re called to allow our worship to manifest itself in all the work we do in the marketplace, all the art we create in the studio, all the movies we screen at the theaters, all the articles we publish online, etc. It’s part of our calling to establish God’s kingdom here on earth – Mission: Redeem Culture.
However, sometimes in our efforts to be relevant to the culture, we end up valuing the praise of the world above our faithfulness to God and what He’s commanded us to be a part of and and to abstain from. Unfortunately, the line that draws the distinction between those two has become blurred… at least that’s how we, the church, make it seem as we argue with each other in Facebook comment sections about who’s a heretic and who’s a legalist.
Good thing Scripture is clear for us.
This is a promise from Jesus I read this morning during my devotional time, a promise I don’t comfortably claim over my own life:
“The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” – John 15:19
I hope this sobered you up as much as it did me.
In our pursuit of making earth look more like heaven, we must be men and women of good reputation amongst those outside the church (1 Timothy 3:7). We must look out for the wellbeing of our cities and fellow countrymen (Jeremiah 29:7). We must be peaceable amongst other men as much as possible (Romans 12:8).
But, at the end of the day, we need to remember that Jesus didn’t come to bring unity the way that the world desires unity: He came as a “sword” (Matthew 10:34) and will return with a “sword” (Revelation 19:15) to divide the people who received Him by grace and those that did not. We need to remember that Jesus wasn’t just highly esteemed by those he loved, blessed, and healed; He was crucified by them.
And, hence, we’re promised to not just be misunderstood by the world, but reviled.
Does this mean we should be weird and create opportunity for people to hate us? Please, no.
Does this mean we should create unnecessary stumbling blocks, like James said in the book of Acts, for those who are coming to know who Jesus is? Again, no.
But does this mean we need to sincerely ask God to check the motives behind our methods of “engaging the culture”, to see if we’re doing what we’re doing to obey Him or in order to avoid being hated by the world?
I think it’d be something worth praying about.
“And they overcame [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” – Revelation 12:11