Is our response as Christians, living in Babylon culturally, to drop out of all attempts to shape and form a new and better culture? Should we “shake the dust off our feet” and move on. Or should we deduce that the culture is lost and filled with darkness and our role is to hold up the light and tell them to come to us in order to be blessed? These responses, and more, are common.

More recently the church began to fight back. We wanted to stop the cultural slide to immorality and massive social change by calling upon our leaders to announce the laws of God and to enforce them as ways to correct our slide toward secularism.

images-1I believe we got this all wrong. The Franciscan tradition teaches a better way. It says that the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. It reasons, rightly I think that oppositional energy only creates more of the same, bad energy and bad practice.

So what is the church to do? I suggest that we become faithfully present by “being the light.” The more our community looks like a real alternative to the world the more the world will benefit from our presence. The world is asking all the wrong questions. Our role is not to have all the right answers but to develop a culture in which we can discover the right questions and in the process share this question process with our neighbors. We cannot think ourselves into a new way of living, we can but live ourselves into a new way of thinking that will offer a faithful presence and a radical new way of being.

imagesIn Isaiah 42:7 we read that the Lord empowers us with the Spirit of Messiah “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” We are to engage with those around us not to tell them how wrong they are but rather to show them how wrong we’ve been and how the light has transformed us and given us new eyes, new ears and new hearts. When they see us asking the right questions and living faithfully we share by deed and word the good news of the kingdom, the gospel.

So long as we “preach” to the world about its sins and darkness we curse the darkness. We can do better. We can light a candle. We can show the goodness and mercy of the Lord by doing good to all. Paul expresses this well in 1 Thessalonians 5:15: “See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”

Let me express this very simply. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously in the wider culture. We should take God, and our love and commitment to our community of faith very seriously, but we should not present ourselves to the world as “the answer.” In so doing we have done far more harm than good and we clearly are not impacting the culture in the process.


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  1. Eric February 19, 2013 at 5:36 am

    I often think of Deuteronomy 4:6-8
    Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

    Unfortunately this doesn’t happen in practice that much.

  2. Barry Bruce February 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I was the pastor of an inner-city church in Bessemer, Alabama. It was early 80’s. The church had purchased several houses around their building to serve as a mote against the “undesirables” moving in Most houses were torn down. Some remained to be rented to white people. One family, renting the house bordering the church property, became a topic of conversation in several “ladies” classes and “fellowship” groups. Soon the entire church heard the gossip about the poor housekeeper and mother of four living next door. Several women who had visited the family shared how dirty and sloppy was the inside of the house. However, one godly lady went to a florist and purchased the most expensive floral arrangement and vase she could find. She brought the gift to the mother living “next door” and placed it on her coffee table. A genuine relationship of love and acceptance was developed which also became a source of gossip. However, soon the house and yard became one of the best kept in the neighborhood. And within a few months I baptized the mother, her four children, and her USMC husband. We need more high souled, magnanimous Christians; those who understand the power of incarnational ministry to charm people into righteousness.

  3. Living Faithfully Today | foolishconfidence February 23, 2013 at 7:56 am

    […] on what it means to live faithfully in the culture today. You can view his first five posts here, here, here, here, and […]

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