This article is a compliment to our Daniel: How To Thrive in Babylon sermon series. Watch the whole series on YouTube.
Navigating culture can be confusing. What things should we accept and what things should we not? We know some change is good, but we also know not all change is good. How can we know the difference?
Culture can be defined as the beliefs and customs of a particular society, group, place, or time. It’s a way of thinking, living, and behaving that exists in a certain place and time. Culture in and of itself isn’t bad, but Rod Dreher said:
“We must not underestimate the power of culture to form our deepest allegiances and identities.”
As followers of Jesus, how can we know the difference between what to accept and what to reject?
Here are five steps your can take to discerning and navigating cultural norms:
- Identify the message.
Any time you hear messaging (advertisement, speech, movie, conversation, social post, etc.), you can ask yourself, “What is the cultural message being portrayed or communicated?” Everything communicates underlying beliefs and perspectives about God, ourselves, and the world around us.
- Identify the truth.
In most cultural messaging there is an element of truth. That’s in part what can make it so dangerous. We can become experts though in highlighting the Biblical truth within the cultural messaging and acknowledging it as truth. This will help us have discernment and not throw the baby out with the bathwater. This requires searching the Scriptures to understand fully what it says about cultural topics so we can better discern real Biblical truth.
- Identify the perversion or the lie.
While many cultural norms do contain truth, they also deviate or pervert at some point from Biblical truth as well. It’s important to be able to distinguish what aspects of cultural norms are good and what parts are not.For example, culture would have us believe that pornography is a harmless private expression of normal human sexuality. We can acknowledge the truth that yes, sex is God given and to be enjoyed. Pornography deviates from God’s truth in that is objectifies the person and dishonors the context created for sex which is covenant marriage.
- Connect it to the overall Story of the Gospel or Scripture.
It’s easy at this point to simply get caught up in a list of what God is for and what God is against. What I would encourage us to do however is build a robust theology of God’s original design and plan for many of the things we find ourselves navigating in culture.
- What is God’s beautiful and original design for marriage?
- What is God’s beautiful and original design for race?
- What is God’s beautiful and original design for human sexuality?
In this way, let us describe the beautify of the Gospel that seeks to rebuild and restore this beautiful and original design rather than just seek to tear down what culture says should be normal and accepted. Let’s remember after all, we live in God’s world, not Him in ours. What is His beautiful original design and why?
- Pray about your place.
In their book, A Practical Guide to Culture, John Stonestreet and Brett Knuckle argue that “Christianity, unlike other religions, is not escapist.” In other words, we’re not called to escape culture, but to shape culture. We’re called to be beacons of light and hope in a a world of darkness. It’s one thing to have Biblical wisdom and discernment concerning Biblical truth, it’s another to know how to respond and what to do with it. In this case, we are in desperate need of the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. Jesus said in Luke 12:11-12:
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Pray and ask God, “Now that I know this truth and have this clarity, what is my role and responsibility with it?” Is this for my own heart? Is this something to train and disciple my kids and family? Is this something for my church family, coworkers, friends, school, social post, etc? God, what do you want me to now do with this information?
Jesus didn’t tackle every cultural issue in every moment. He had wisdom and discernment. That should be our goal as well.
So, what do we do as Christians when the culture around us shifts?
We are to operate with grace and truth. We don’t accept all things and we don’t reject all things either. We seek God for the wisdom and ways to know the difference and what He wants us to do once we know.
Josh Hossler | Lead Pastor
Josh is the founding and Lead Pastor of Evident Church. He is passionate about helping people find their purpose and follow Jesus. Josh enjoys his family, preaching, leadership, writing, and is also is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, MI. He and his wife Raelyn, have three daughters, AvaRae, AdaLyn, and AnaBel.