Recent events started me thinking about culture wars. How, exactly, should we go about changing our culture? I believe the best place to look for guidance is the Bible. So, do you remember that time Jesus had his disciples stage a protest against the unfairness and oppression of Rome and its culture? No? How about that verse that says, “Go into all the world and spread values across cultures and societies”? No, again? Me neither.
In fact, Jesus appears to have specifically avoided getting entangled in “cultural” issues. I’m thinking specifically of when some Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by pulling him into the thorny issue of Roman taxation. He answered their question in a way that sidestepped the controversy and pointed people back to God, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) Faced with a similar issue today, I suspect we’d loudly and proudly pick a side in the cultural dispute, make signs, wave flags, and argue on social media, all the while assuming that people would recognize the godliness of our cause.
I’m not saying that culture doesn’t matter, or that Christians should be disengaged from it. Far from it. I’m only suggesting that we may be approaching it wrong. I fear that often we may be missing the trees for the forest, to use a backward idiom. Changing a culture’s values does not necessarily change the members of that society. However, changed people will change their culture.
It’s silly to expect a non Christian culture to adopt Christian values. We live in a lost and dying world, and our society reflects that. Even if we could succeed in getting the lost to adopt our values, that would ultimately do nothing to help them. All we would have accomplished is taking a lost, hell-bound individual and turning him or her into a lost, hell-bound individual that we find more palatable.
If we really want to change the culture, we need to get serious about impacting individuals with the gospel. Jesus’ plan for changing the culture, and the world, is simply this, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)