Have you ever heard one of your friends say something that didn’t seem to line up with God’s Word, but you had no idea how to respond? Chances are you have, and you’ll be happy to know that you’re not alone. The question of how to respond to culture is a question that has been on the minds of believers for several thousand years. Today, I want to provide you with three practical guidelines that will help you in crafting a biblical response to culture.
Celebrate the Positive Aspects of Culture:
Firstly, we need to celebrate the positive aspects of culture. As Christians, we have a tendency to look down upon what we define as culture, but as we have established time and time again this week, there is nothing wrong with culture in and of itself. To the contrary, culture is beautiful, and it is something to celebrate. All around the world, people of every race, gender, tongue, and custom are serving and worshiping Jesus by making known his name to their respective communities. Isn’t that exciting? How thrilling it is to consider that one day we will all have the privilege of worshiping our Savior together!
Differentiate Between Personal Preference and God’s Word:
Secondly, we need to have the maturity necessary to differentiate between our personal preference and Scripture. So often, we attempt to provide others with a packaged deal when we interpret God’s Word: Jesus’ message + our preferences. This model is not only unhelpful, but is actually detrimental to the effectiveness of Scripture. When we try to push our personal preference on others–whether that be a particular Bible translation, style of dress, taste in music, or anything else–and call it Christianity, we establish boundaries that Jesus did not. Although he has established certain guidelines (such as dressing modestly), God has blessed us with much freedom. Just because a particular thing may not be our favorite, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily sinful. In our endeavor to respond to culture biblically, it is essential that we ensure that a principle is biblical and not a matter of personal preference before asking others to conform.
Learn to Respond Graciously, Clearly, & Correctly:
Finally, we need to understand how to respond to culture when it does come into conflict with God’s Word, and trust me, there will be times when it does. In those moments, what adjectives should characterize our response?
- Responding Graciously: The first thing we need to keep in mind is to respond with graciousness. John Piper says the following regarding our response to culture: “Christ will be known in the culture when we treat people better than they deserve, not as they deserve.” Similarly, in Philippians 4:5, we read: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” It would seem common sense that Christians respond graciously to those holding opinions contrary to their own, and yet, it unfortunately only takes about two seconds of scrolling through Facebook comments to realize that this is often not the case. As believers and as young adults, it is vital that we go to great care to word our responses to our peers graciously, and in doing so, represent Christ well.
- Responding Clearly: The next thing to remember is to respond clearly. I can’t even begin to recount all of the times where my poor choice of words has resulted in unnecessary arguments. The funny thing is, more often than not, I actually agree with the other person’s opinion, but my inability to communicate my thoughts clearly points to the contrary. I believe this happens often in our response to culture and to other believers, and unfortunately, many a church has been split as a result of unclear communication between a few key leaders. If we truly desire to respond to culture effectively, we need to put forward a conscientious effort to word our responses with accuracy and precision.
- Responding Correctly: The final thing to keep in mind regarding our response to culture is the need to respond correctly, or through the proper channels. It is imperative that we choose our battles wisely. There are times and places to say things, and there are also times when we will be more effective by simply keeping our mouths shut. I have seen so many comment wars on Facebook that succeeded not in changing minds, but instead only in fostering immense frustration on both sides. Use discernment and ask yourself: “Is this really the best place to have this conversation, or am I simply being reactionary?”
Evaluate your responses to culture with the criteria provided in this article. Think to yourself: “Was I gracious? Was I clear? Did I communicate my point through the proper channels?”