Home. The word brings so many ideas and memories to mind. So much of our life is spent focusing on home – preparing to leave home, finding a home, making a home, finding a way back home. For the Christian too often our life is centered around a place that is not our home.
On Wednesday night at church, the student ministry is studying Radical by David Platt. We were discussing the how we treat ministry in our culture versus how we treat ministry when we are on a mission trip. Several points were made: we are intentional on a mission trip, we work together with other Christians, we are focused on the spiritual versus the physical. All those are entirely true and contributing factors to why it can be easier to minister cross-culturally than across the street, but I think one factor guides the others – we treat the culture in which we live as our home.
We think and live as if the American culture was our own. We treat it as home. As a Christian, it is not your home. It is your most pressing ministry environment. It is the culture in which you most (and must) interact. But it is not and cannot be your home.
The Christian has to learn to examine all cultures as if they were foreign to him – because they are. Christ-followers have been recreated for a new culture, a heavenly culture. The trappings in which we find ourselves now are not to be our culture, our home. My job as a Christian is to study culture, not to become like it or assimilate with it, but rather to use it as a means to effectively present my culture, the Gospel.
Christians too often take the opposite extremes in dealing with culture. Jesus gave us the paradigm for relating to the present culture: “in, but not of.” However, the easier ways are to embrace one of the two aspects while ignoring the others.
One Christian group decides to no longer be “in” culture. They are going to remove themselves from all the “sinful influences” of the world and hole themselves up with their family in a stained glass bunker. They won’t allow “worldly” entertainment in their home. Their children will never darken the doors of a degenerate public school. They will only shop at Christian stores, with Christian products from Christian people. Sounds nice, except it ignores two key teachings of Scripture.
First, removing yourself and your family from the world, will not remove them from sinful influences. While it will temporarily lessen the external temptations presented by the world, it will not remove those presented internally by Satan and our own sinful nature. Second, it’s hard to share your faith with those who need Christ, if you never place yourself in an environment where there will be people who have never met Him.
The other group of Christians forgets to no longer be “of” the world. They have embraced culture to the extent that there is no discernible difference between their lives and the lives of the non-Christian living next door. They vocally say they are a Christian, but it has little more than a cultural foundation. Being a Christian is part of their culture. If they were in a Muslim culture, they would be Muslim. If they were in a secularist society, they would be secular atheists.
The first group refuses to examine and engage culture in order to share the Gospel. The second group has lost all ground to share the Gospel because they embrace and espouse the same values as the culture. The first group will not get close enough to examine the culture. The second group is too close to actually critical examine it.
While there are enclaves of the first group within Christendom, the second group pervades our churches. The American Dream is the driving force behind their actions. The average self-professed Christian in the pew knows more about the love life of Brad and Angelina than they do about the mission life of the Apostle Paul.
They have traded their real home for a cheap, tawdry imitation and they do not even seem to notice or care. This culture has become their home, but only with effort in bypassing the Gospel life that God has called us to live.
I quote, as per my norm, C.S. Lewis:
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
This place, this earth, this culture is not our home. God may give us some pleasant inns, some entertaining hotels, but we should never forget this is not our home. We should treat this culture as we would a foreign culture. Study it, analyze it, look for strengths and weaknesses, find the ways to best communicate the Gospel in it, but always with the fact firmly implanted in your mind – this is not my home. It shouldn’t feel as such. We should not treat it as such.