06 April 2006

 

I read a blog on a religious page titled: Isolation, Conforming or Transforming? The author posed this question: “How can the church shape the culture without being shaped by it? Does it matter? What did Jesus intend for the church anyway?”  The author was of the opinion that the church seems to operate from one of two extremes, either in isolation from the world or totally conforming to it. Interesting position.  

I believe that over the years within Christian based western democracies, there has been a continual, conscious eroding of religious influence from society. The practice of any religion by mortals will undoubtedly produce both positive and negative aspects within the culture. I would hope that we all applaud the efforts of those who worked towards, if not completely removing the negative elements, at least minimizing their effects. However I believe that certain “special” interest groups and individuals have manipulated the concept of the separation of church and state, in an effort to eliminate the influence of religion, particularly Christianity from our culture. They sincerely believe that a completely secular state is what is best to promote equality, tolerance and rational thinking within society. Although these “secularists” have never been in the majority, they have been quite powerful. Successful to the point where prayer has been removed from schools, it is politically incorrect to make references to “Christmas” (it’s the Holiday Season!), and monuments with the Ten Commandments written on them are being removed from courthouses, etc. But worse of all, many Christians have become uncomfortable with openly proclaiming and/or practicing their faith outside of their home or church. They become paralyzed by the fear of being labeled as “subjective”, “intolerant”, “close-minded”, conservative”, patriarchal, racist and/or misogynist. How many of you pray and thank God and/or bless your meal before eating in public, especially around friends and/or co-workers, whether they are Christians or not? I remember there was this email going around about a speech made I think to Congress, on the decline of society due to the removal of God and any religious influences. I wish I had kept it!

The Bible teaches that Christians are the “church”. So the result of the separation, or should I say the continuing eroding of the “church” from society, is that it would appear that we have little or no impact on influencing the culture of the society. Hence the increase of decadence, delusion and despair. What did Christ expect from the “church” in regards to the impact “we” should have upon society? The answer I believe lies in Matt 5:13-16:

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.

I would conclude from this statement that Jesus wishes, no… expectsthe “church” to be a transforming positive force on culture. Therefore we are NOT to be in isolation from the world! Salt adds flavour and it preserves. Jesus warns that if we are expected to be the “salt” of the earth, and we are not fulfilling our mission, i.e. we are not adding flavour (influencing) and preserving what is best in the culture of a society, then as the “church” we are useless! Light, very simply, illuminates so that we can see clearly where we need to go, identifies pitfalls to be aware of and eliminates the fear of the unknown. If our “light”, i.e. good works are not getting rid of the darkness in our society, illuminating the way for others to glorify God, then our light is hidden. What benefit then is the “church” to society!? We are therefore required, again I would stress… commanded, to interact with the world and have an effect on its culture. Case in point, one example is the ministry of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. There is no doubt that his ministry changed a culture!

I am reminded of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats concerning judgment day in Matthew 25: 31-46. Those who “inherit the kingdom” are those who fed the hungry; gave drink to the thirsty; took in the stranger; cloth the naked; comforted the sick; and ministered to the incarcerated. Certainly these values are not what our present culture advocates as the basis for a fulfilling, successful and happy life. Selfishness, personal gratification, and individual concepts of morality are the norm of our culture. But Christ equates when we, the “church”, promote a culture that helps the less fortunate, we are in fact helping HIM!

Isolation…. No! Conformity…. Never!

Rom 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

I think tomorrow at lunch I will bow my head and pray, thanking our Heavenly Father for the food He has provided for my co-workers and I, Christians or not.

Asa.

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