Friday, March 23, 2018

Jesus and Culture

"...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (1 Cor. 1: 23-25).

Have you been feeling the huge shift in culture that has been going on in America in the last half-century? The predominant worldview in the West has been moving in two directions, and both of them are away from God.

On the one hand, secularism has largely taken over the education system and media. Whereas the Bible used to be revered, quoted and used for source material, it is currently pushed away and replaced with scientific rationalism. (Sometimes pseudo-scientific rationalism.)

On the other hand, this God-vacuum that has been created has been filled with all kinds of other spiritualities, anything but Christianity. As G. K. Chesterton is credited with saying, "When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything."

Paul and the disciples of his time brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to a similarly divided world. The Pagan cultures based in Hellenism thought that the message was foolishness. How could God become a man (since they believed that the material world was inherently inferior to the spiritual world)? Thus, when Paul presented the Gospel to the Pagan philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17), he was met with a rather tepid response. They sneered at the idea of a resurrection. "Why would someone, once freed from the flesh, want to be raised in a physical body? How could anyone worship a God thus en-fleshed?" The idea of the Gospel sounded foolish to them.

But the Jews of Paul's day also rejected the Gospel. In their thinking, Jesus failed when He went to the cross. How could the One Almighty God go through such humiliation and death? The Gospel appeared to be too weak to them. They were expecting a powerful Messiah to appear on earth, the heir of David's throne, who would suppress all opposition to God in order to re-establish the Kingdom (read Israel) on earth again. They rejected the idea of Messiah as a "suffering Servant of Yaweh." 

So what are we to do? Let us join with Jesus, taking up our own cross, and follow Him. The church is called to be a culture that looks foolish and weak, yet within it is contained the wisdom of God and the power of God to transform lives. This is the Culture of Jesus Followers, which runs counter to the Cultures of This World. 

And let us embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is able to save all who believe. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (Rom. 1:16-17).

The recent passing of Billy Graham should challenge all believers to take up the torch of evangelistic zeal that he bore for over half-a-century. Let us not be ashamed of looking different than the world. Let us embrace the culture of the Kingdom, the culture of the Gospel, the culture of Jesus.