Who or what is the greatest influence on your life?
Are you more concerned about following God than you are about what your friends might think? Or, does your inbuilt desire to fit in override your (very real) concerns about the cultural standards you are expected to conform to?
We’re pulled every which way. The invitation to embrace all that the world has to offer is tempered by the clarity of the bible’s moral compass. How though do we make sure that we cross the right lines, with the appropriate motives to the correct ends?
In this next study in our series - Beyond the church – we consider the implications for discipleship when our faith clashes with culture. What happens when the world goes one way and the bible points to another? How can we support political and other systems when they are founded on (or mediated through) systems that are in direct opposition to the gospel of justice and love?
“A church that loses its distinctiveness is a church that has nothing distinctive with which to engage the culture … a worldly church is of no good to the world.”
“Let’s model what happens to a culture when the kingdom interrupts us on our way to where we would go, if we were mapping this out on our own. Let’s not merely advocate for causes; let’s embody a kingdom. Let’s not aspire to be a moral majority but a gospel community, one that doesn’t exist for itself but for the larger mission of reaching the whole world with the whole gospel. That sort of kingdom-first cultural engagement drives us not inward, but onward.” (Both quotes from Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel)
Pause for thought
- Where are the major clashes between faith and culture?
- How is the church speaking to culture today?
- Why should the church be different and/or distinctive?
- How can we ensure that we are driving the church onwards and not inwards?
- If push came to shove what would drive you to civil disobedience?
We are in the world but not of the world (Romans 12 verses 1 & 2). A great soundbite that represents the exclusive nature of discipleship but it can be much harder to put this into practice than it might at first appear.
Like any citizen we have responsibilities. Roads must be maintained, rubbish collected and healthcare provision allowed for. Most of us are happy to fund such things through or taxes but what happens when we are asked to support something that is in direct opposition to what we understand of the gospels?
Please read Matthew 22 verses 15 to 22
- Why do we have laws? How do these determine our responsibilities?
- In what ways is our Christian witness guided by the principles of integrity? (see verse 16)
- When and where might it be wrong to “give back to Caesar”?
- In what areas of life do you find the greatest clash between following Christ and bowing to culture?
- How do you come to a decision about what to do in such circumstances?
Jesus and Paul would have had a very different idea of citizenship than is the case today. Citizenship then was a more communal and visible expression of your commitment to the state. Today we are less likely to take such things at trust and more likely to question – but we continue to be influenced by the values and attitudes of the age.
Please read Romans 13 verses 1 to 7
God and the Government
- What do these verses teach us about God’s perspective on earthly authority?
- How should we respond to calls on our time and resources in light of this?
- What is the advantage to Christians having a good reputation with others? (see 1 Timothy 3 verse 7)
- How do we cultivate that good reputation even though we sometimes have to take a stand for the sake of Christ?
- In what ways can our witness be an influence that will change culture rather than culture driving us
To think about ….
…. what does integrity look like for you – as you engage with work colleagues, your family and your friends