Let’s cut to the chase and acknowledge what we all already know. As Christians, we face difficult circumstances and troubling trends that undermine the image of God in every man, woman and child. But these are not new problems for the Church.
The bride of Christ has confronted and thrived in the midst of cultural embrace of triumphalist leaders parading as political messiahs, sub-biblical sexuality offering empty promises, the devaluing of human life from the unborn to the elderly, and rejection of our shared humanity over issues of race and class.
That the Church will come through victoriously on the other side yet again is not in doubt—not because our strength or accomplishments, but because of Christ’s strength in our weakness and His finished work on our behalf.
The only real question is about you and I. Will we make it through unscathed? Will individual Christians maintain their faithful witness in the midst of trying times? That all depends on how we choose to respond.
We will be told that there are only three options—capitulation, cowardice or cynicism. Each have their own temptations and allures, but each is faulty and unbiblical.
Capitulation tells us to simply embrace the cultural norms. It whispers that traditional biblical teaching must be jettisoned for the modern day.
Who are we to stand in the way of progress? Why should we remain on the “wrong side of history“?
The answer is that Christ has called us to “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all,” (Jude 3) regardless of the whims of the current culture. We cannot capitulate. We cannot surrender.
Cowardice seems as bravery on the surface, refusing to bow to societal pressures. It advises us to withdraw, maintain our holiness and focus on being separate.
This cultural cowardice can take two forms—we hole up in our bunker and either stay there isolated and protected or use our safe space to launch attacks on the evils of the world.
Except Jesus called us to be the “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16). We can only be useful as those things if we are out interacting with the rot and darkness outside of the church.
Cynicism says we can observe culture. We can even be in it, but should keep our distance emotionally. It’s best to view it through binoculars of snark and sarcasm.
We feel the need to treat everything as if it were a joke and not worth our time or emotional energy. Everything, everyone else has earned our ironic jabs and smug condescension.
But the follower of Christ cannot play the aloof cynic. Our Suffering Savior wept over His city and her people, wept with those enduring pain and loss, and took upon Himself all of our hurts to bring healing.
Capitulation, cowardice and cynicism must all be rejected as not providing a full, biblical approach to a culture that has turned antagonistic toward Christ. Instead, we must be motivated by courage.
Courage knows we must take a stand for biblical truth, but that we also must be with others for that stand to truly matter. Courage acknowledges all of the problems, recognizes we could get hurt, but sees Christ as our model and our reward.
Engaging culture with courage can be messy. It’s much less “safe” than the other options, with each one offering different ways to avoid facing the cultural winds head on.
In discussing temptation, C.S. Lewis explains that it’s the good man, not the bad one, who truly understands the difficulty of a particular temptation.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”
Reaching people in our culture is the same way. You will not impact society by allowing it to dictate your positions, avoiding it altogether, or pretending to be above it all.
You and I can make an impact by facing the wind and courageously walking forward. We will stumble a bit. It will knock us around, but we get back up and keep going.
These cultural winds vainly huff and puff on the brick church house, but the church will remain and it will advance. The gates of hell will not prevail and neither will the gusts and bluster it works up as it swings back and forth.
In that truth, Christians should stand with courage knowing their victory is secure and their Victor remains on His throne.