More times than I care to admit, I’ve typed in the name of a store on my smartphone and started on my way, only to realize when I arrive that it sent me to the wrong location. I needed the one on the other side of town.
Traveling to somewhere you’ve never been is all but impossible without a map or some kind of directions to get you there. But you need more than a map. You need to know where it is you are going. All of it is essentially useless unless you have the right destination.
I feel like many of us do that with Scripture. It gives us the map for how to live, but we aim it toward the wrong ending point and then wonder what went wrong.
Virtually all Christians say they want to see Jesus at work in our day, but is that really the destination at which we are aiming our lives and ministries?
Because I’m concerned that too many Christians do not actually long for Christ to work in our present culture, but rather are more concerned with Him bringing back a previous one. By that I mean, the primary desire of many is the idealized culture of the “good ol’ days,” not a biblically faithful modern day.
People often lament the fact that public schools no longer have teacher and administration led prayer. Is that what you actually want or do you want the surrounding culture it represented in the 1950s?
If you are an evangelical Protestant would you want teachers and principals reinforcing their theological beliefs if you lived in extremely Catholic Boston, predominately Mormon Salt Lake City, or heavily Muslim Dearbon, MI?
Adding organized, teacher-led prayer in public school classrooms will not bring about spiritual revival to our nation. At best, it is merely a return to the cultural Christianity of the past and not a fresh move of God in our present day.
There are positives to having a nominally Christian culture—stores closed on Sundays allowing more people to worship with their families for one—but we cannot confuse that with biblical Christianity being the defining influence of a society. Take, for instance, the southern United States.
While the South may be considered the Bible Belt, no area where Scripture governs the cultural ethics would be clamoring for a decidedly unbiblical depiction of sex and romance. Yet, moviegoers in Southern states were the most likely to preorder tickets for Fifty Shades of Grey.
We must realize there are numerous reasons to be focused on more than a call to go back to a golden bygone era, not the least of which is the idea that it wasn’t all that “golden” for many people. While some may believe 1950s American culture was the zenith of moral progress, many minority Christians would quickly say otherwise.
Our Founding Fathers owned slaves, as did the Puritans. The Reformers, like the Roman Catholic church before them, often used the power of the state to punish (and even kill) dissenters. The only true previous golden age of humanity was ruined the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
If we want Christ to move and be glorified in 2015, we should be prepared and ready for it to look differently than it would in 1955, 1755, and 1555. You can look to the past to see that God is at work, but not to see exactly how He will work today.
We know He will always act in accordance with Scripture. Those are the parameters He has established. But biblical faithfulness looks different today than it did 50 years ago, just as it can look different in a major U.S. metro area compared to a remote village in a third world country.
Biblical principles remain, but they will flesh themselves out differently depending on the time and place.
Our destination is Christlikeness and the transformation of our culture, but that can never be achieved if we are constantly seeking to move backwards or remain culturally stationary.