Christians & Culture Wars

It’s been hard to miss the discussion and debate in both the secular media and the Christian blogosphere surrounding President Obama’s support of gay marriage.  I think the one thing that most stirred the pot for many evangelicals and social conservatives was how he referenced his faith and  “the golden rule” as a significant factor in coming to this conclusion.  I do want to be very careful not to question the sincerity of his faith- not my job to do that.  At the same time, it forces me to think through how following Jesus impacts the way I engage the culture around me.

Two big factors influence my thoughts:

  1. As a follower of Jesus I believe the Bible is 100% true and gives us God’s direction for this life and eternity.  Scripture seems to be very clear concerning sex and marriage.
  2. I live in a place, Burlington, Vermont, where what some consider culture wars have already been waged.  Gay marriage is a state issue, and my state legislature decided to make it legal.  It’s popular, it’s decided, and it’s not changing.
I’ve found many Christians and churches struggle with how to navigate this cultural landscape.  Some withdraw from the culture into a Christian fortress.  Some reload for another battle that may never arrive.  Some give up and even embrace the values they cannot defeat.  Many act as if before God was sovereign and the gospel changed lives, but now…
Fortunately, the scriptures and especially the Apostle Paul’s epistles were not written to people living in monasteries but to people seeking to follow Jesus in the midst of the pagan first century world.   I’ve been reading through 1 Corinthians the past few weeks and find it incredibly relevant to where God has called me to live out His mission.  I won’t bore you with all the details of first century Corinthian culture, but here a few that stand out:
  • Many of its residents were very socially mobile and very well off as sailors, businessmen, and government officials from all over the Roman world descended on this port city.  Yet at the same time  2/3 of the population of 700,000 were slaves.
  • There were several temples to pagan gods and idol worship was rampant.  The most prominent religious building was the temple to Aphrodite, Greek goddess of eros love,  on the acropolis 1500 ft about the city
  • Every evening, Aphrodite’s 1000 temple prostitutes, would descend on the city of Corinth to help the men “worship” the goddess of erotic love.
  • Corinth became known for its rampant “anything goes” sexual culture, drunken orgies,  and prostitution (things are not worse today!)
In the midst of this culture, Paul writes something very intriguing in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 regarding how the spiritual family should address sexual immorality within the church and in the surrounding culture:
 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Here are some practical thoughts in light of this scripture:
  • As I live out the mission of Jesus and the values of scripture, I need to be careful not to become the morality police for the culture around me.  Even if I could impose the Ten Commandments on my neighbors, community, and culture, that would not bring them any closer to knowing Jesus.  In fact, many of the people who wanted Jesus crucified were great at keeping those rules.
  • I/we need to make sure we’re living out the values of Jesus in our own individual lives, families, and spiritual families (i.e. churches) but also recognize that this is impossible apart from Jesus living in and through us.  Simply telling people what’s right and wrong won’t work- people need to see that God’s ways are actually better.
  • We’re in need of serious accountability within our spiritual families.  Scanning statistical surveys shows plenty of evidence that divorce and porn addiction are prevalent among confessing followers of Jesus.  Some level of hypocrisy exists when we demand a scriptural approach to marriage and sexual relationships by our government but not from each other.
  • This begins by discipling those whom God has entrusted to us to display the gospel in every arena of their lives and to befriend those who don’t yet know Jesus- no matter who they are.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “Christians & Culture Wars

  1. We must be careful what we read , hear and watch. We must not fear to challenge other’s (even your top leader) presuppositions. Above all we not be afraid to be different 🙂 Soli de Gloria

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  2. Perhaps the biggest thing our culture needs is a more honest christianity lived out amoung God’s people. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, within us is no good thing. We are really no better than those outside the faith. We are capable of the same sins. Perhaps we need to share the good news that God understands our brokeness and our inability to live without sin, that is why Jesus came and died. Now the good news is God is not angry with us anymore. Jesus came to redeem us and it is only by His grace.

    Because we have shared in God’s mercy, we believers are the ones to be more merciful to those who do not know the mercy of God. How then can we dare judge?

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  3. My position statement: I believe that there are moral absolutes that are revealed to us in the Bible from God. As such, I struggle to keep many of these. I have problems with lust, greed, jealousy, anger, and selfishness, to name a few. The difference is that while I acknowledge my sin as sin and achieve change through Jesus, homosexuals typically demand their sin be accepted as a variant of normal.

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  4. Trite (maybe), but true (for sure): We are to love the persons (gay, pro choice, druggie, etc., but not love (approve) what they believe or do. Compassion before condemnation.

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  5. Kevin, I’d love to get your feedback on a question related to this post. I follow your reasoning, and I think I agree (almost) entirely. Imposing the moral demands of the gospel upon those who have nothing of its power seems very much out of step with the New Testament.
    At the same time, we have a civic responsibility to vote, and if we take the stance that we can’t impose our Christian morality on non-Christians, how then shall we vote? To put the question differently, if I don’t vote according to my views on human beings, sin, relationships, redemption, etc, all of which (I hope) come from God’s revelation of himself, then according to what do I vote? How can I remove my Christianity from my politics without bifurcating myself? Any help in resolving this dilemma would be greatly appreciated.

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