“Caught in the Middle” points out the dilemma new millenia bring. How do we interface with the culture around us. Great points to ponder.
Christ and culture
There are a couple of books that I’ve read recently that consider the Christian’s place (and the church’s place) in the world. H. Richard Niebuhr wrote Christ and Culture in 1951 where he posited that the five positions we take range from Christ against culture to Christ in culture – and everything in between. The books I’ve read recently are An Unstopable Force, by Erwin McManus, and The Church in Emerging Culture, edited by Leonard Sweet.
Interestingly, just this week I was in a conversation over disagreement about where we should fall in this continuum. One side believes that the only viable position is one of Christ (and the Christian) against culture. We don’t hear nearly enough sermons condemning the homosexual and the “homosexual agenda.” “Do you ever preach,” he asked, “and say that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals are going to hell?” And I got the message that there was only one “correct” answer to that question.
On the other hand, how often did Jesus do that very thing? If what Alfred Edersheim writes in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is correct, then things like homosexuality and abortion were much worse (make that MUCH worse) than they are today. Perhaps not in number, though who can prove that, but at least in severity. We don’t find a trash heap outside of our cities where women can drop off their unwanted newborns to die of exposure, or to simply burn in the pile. We don’t have bath houses where men get together with underaged boys quite legally.
Most of my life I have seen the church take this “against” position. We’ve done a pretty good job of shaking our finger in the face of “the offenders.” Problem is, in the mean time we haven’t kept a very clean house of our own. And we’ve become much less effective at actually seeing hearts changed or seeing minds or trends in the culture around us changed.
The early church seemed to do a much better job of that, without taking our kind of stand against the prevailing culture. They simply lived out Jesus’ words to love God and love your neighbor as yourself in some pretty radical ways. I wonder what might happen if we did the same.