Arks and Fishes

… in the New Testament vision … Christianity is not a culture-creating thing but rather a culture-influencing one. Wherever the Gospel is preached human society becomes composite; hence, since culture is the name given to the total spiritual heritage of an entire people, there can never be such a thing as a Christian culture; there can only be cultures in which the influence of Christianity is more or less apparent.

~Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren

This statement points at what I believe to be an error of Evangelicalism. Thirty years ago we assumed that by learning to manipulate the tools of American politics we might preserve our “Christian Culture.” The result has been predictable: a modern-day glimpse of what might have happened had David worn Saul’s armor to meet Goliath. Moreover, we set ourselves up for defeat when victory was never the goal in the first place. The goal was, and is, faithfulness. The goal was never to establish or preserve a Christian culture, but to live into the unfolding Kingdom of God. 

Now, we are faced with the task of learning to live as a faithful, culture-influencing minority among a people that is becoming hostile to the Kingdom message. Our goal as American Christians is to discover who we are and then allow our faithful obedience to the Lord be the aroma of either life or death in our culture. We should expect to be conscientious objectors; a community who has chosen to renounce its citizenship in the world and live consistently by a different creed.

In the early years of the Christian transculture, there were symbols that were embraced by the followers of Jesus. There was the cross, of course, but there were others, notably the ark of Noah and the great fish from the story of Jonah. In those days our people understood themselves to be preserved by God. They thought of their community as the ark floating above the destructive floodwater of a hostile culture; a people preserved, like Jonah, for the work of the Kingdom. There was a difference though. Whereas the ark of Noah was closed, the ark of the church is open, its people ready to rescue those looking for refuge from the storm. 

Are we prepared to be the welcoming minority? Prepared to be a peculiar people? Are we ready to say to the world around us, “have it your way, but as for us, we live in a different Kingdom, by a different code?” Are we ready to say such things and then live consistently with our statement? 

The Supreme Court is going to be ruling soon on the definition of marriage. I predict that eventually the definition it chooses will be different than what has been traditionally understood. The pressure on the old understanding of marriage and morality is relentless and the tide is turning. Even without the court, public attitudes have changed.  And this is not the first domino. Cultural dominoes have been falling for some time now. As the shift of culture continues, will we stand or shift with it? If we don’t discover our identity and join together to live faithfully as Kingdom citizens, shifting is inevitable. You, my Christian brother or sister, are becoming the minority. 

Welcome aboard. 

 

 

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