“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of Our God endures forever” – (Isaiah40:8 NIV).
How do Christians wade through the sea of popular cultural influence? The more media consumed, the more it has the power to shape the audience according to an infinite amount of post-modernistic ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Post modernistic ideology says everything is subjective and there are no absolutes. And that’s cool, right?
Christians today are morally conflicted battling a desire to be politically correct, tolerant and silent for fear of rupturing the secular world. The problem with this is that we can’t live out the Gospel shining with distinction if all we’re doing is quietly blending into the background. Honestly, it would be almost impossible to tell who’s really following Christ and who’s just trying to model the “Christian-coolness” of their generation. ‘Scary Christianity’ plays nice in the sandbox, is kind, always helpful and compliant but this is not how Jesus always promoted the Gospel.
Now this is isn’t to say we should go around brazen and unfeeling towards others, it just means that our allegiance needs to be to the Kingdom of God in all we do and not tied to a people pleasing culture. After all, in Revelation, Jesus makes it pretty clear that “lukewarmth” repels Him saying:
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:15-19)
This might sound harsh but when you really think about it, who would want a “luke-warm” lover. A passionless partner that was indifferent all the time. An apathy that demonstrates a loss of enthusiasm for the relationship that once was there. This person would be satisfied with the blessings and benefits they received but would remain unwilling to make any sacrifices to continue to cultivate the relationship. The outcome would be an impure faith that demonstrated a form of “love” but at the heart was untrue. Does a wayward culture also cause the Christian heart to drift from it’s one True Love? Maybe not.
But in the words of Michael Jackson in his autobiography, Moonwalk, let’s start by posing the question…”What happened to truth? Did it go out of style?” It’s interesting that one of the most culturally relevant pop artists of all time would ask this and it is this same question that rocked Pontius Pilate centuries earlier as he asks Jesus Christ, ”What is truth?” (John 18:38). Daniel 3 presents a biblical model to help Christian’s respond to the unpredictability of cultural relativism. Through the trial, sentencing and reemergence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Here the story pulls us into a shift in culture that came in direct opposition to their truth as the text read:
“May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:8-13)
Of course King Nebuchadnezzar is furious behind the rejection of this new societal norm by these three men (who consequently worked for his Babylonian administration) that believed their God is the only One deserving of worship. It didn’t matter to these men that doing so would mean risking their lives by being thrown in a fiery furnace…they were instead willing to put both their physical and social survival at stake replying with this:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not…” (Daniel 3:16-18)
Now we know that these men were saved and God rescued them from the furnace but look at the strength of their faith displayed in those words, “even if he does not.” The imagery from this biblical seen is reminiscent to the Revelation scripture mentioned earlier where Christ implores the listener to take from Him “gold refined by fire.” Could the gold in fact be the the treasure of having an uncompromising spirit before God and man. For these three faith pioneers it could be argued that it was. God was their absolute truth and that broke the bond of the cultural ties of their day. Take a moment to think about who’s your King Nebuchadnezzar? What furnace is before you?
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Christians today must take a violent holy stance and be willing to be thrown into the fire of ridicule rather than bend to a God-less lifestyle which in the end will truly demonstrate where their loyalty lies.
So back to truth, Jesus Christ eloquently provides the perfect definition in John 17:17…stating truth is God’s Word. Period. Therefore Christians can be culturally relevant but only to the extent that it does not contradict timeless Holy Absolutes.