Personalizing the Culture War

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Justin has an interesting post on his blog citing a Jack Collins' quote from "Faith and Life" dealing with the culture war.  I think this is an important topic today that calls for careful and sanctified reasoning.  It is pointless to deny that there is a culture war taking place in America -- that is, there is a public struggle over worldview, morality, national identity, etc., in which a Christian-influenced worldview is battling with a pagan-influenced worldview.  The stakes are high and many Christians will rightly find themselves motivated to get involved.

Where I think reflection is most needed is not regarding the fact of the culture war or the importance of this phenomenon, but rather with respect to the tactics and strategy employed by Christians in the culture war.  Does our attitude towards the other side reflect a biblical view of sin and grace?  Do our tactics reflect a biblical understanding of how unbelievers can be persuaded or even "defeated"?  In short, do our weapons correspond to how the Bible would have us understand this struggle?  Of particular importance to me is the mistake that Christians are increasingly making, in my view, of personalizing the culture war.  We begin thinking it is "us versus them."  And suddenly our neighbor is "them" -- a culture war enemy.  We begin to shun non-Christians among whom God has placed us, treating them as unclean in the way that the Jews treated the Samaritans.  We look upon them as threats to our children and our "way of life."

The more we Christians fall into this mentality, the greater is the tragedy.  For God's Word would have us love our neighbor and show kindness even to those who spitefully use us.  We are to look on the world with mercy and pounce upon every opportunity to display grace in our dealings with them.  I fear that Christians will increasingly betray our missionary calling to our neighbors due to "culture war" thinking.  And, of course, the only result is that we will fall farther behind even in the culture war, since it is only the redemptive calling of the church that can ever transform culture.  More importantly, if we personalize the culture war, we will betray our Lord, who has sent us as the Father once sent him into the dark and hostile world not with the law, but with "grace and truth" (John 1:14, 17).

I had a chance to reflect on this just this week.  A man in my congregation came to ask my counsel about how to handle a difficult situation.  (Oh, how pastors love it when Christians come in seeking prayer and biblical counsel!)  He has a neighbor who is grossly misusing him to the extent that the man may have to take legal action in order to safeguard his family.  Christians will have to do this sometimes.  But I also urged my dear brother to have a personal attitude of mercy, love, and grace towards his obnoxious neighbor.  Let the man encounter Christian charity, even in the midst of strife.  Perhaps, even if the legal battle goes poorly, the man can be won for Jesus.  And even if he is not, it will honor and please our Lord for his grace to be displayed.

I think that is a good prescription for any of our thoughts regarding the broader culture war.  Let us not personalize it, as if our neighbor or co-worker should be seen mainly as a threat.  And even when our covenantal and kingdom obligations require us to act in opposition, let us realize that every one of our culture-war "enemies" is made in the image of God and should be shown the mercy and love of our Lord Jesus.
Posted August 24, 2007 @ 9:10 AM by Rick Phillips

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