If we (Christ-followers deeply in love with people) are fully entering into a culture with non-judgemental acceptance, what will be the effect on that culture?
We will contaminate culture.
Does the word “contaminated” make you uncomfortable?
How about “infect”? Is that better?
Going back to Niehbur’s definition of culture…each culture has at its root a set of common values. The individual members of the culture come to shared values in different ways. Values might be inherited, or maybe discovered through an inspirational book or teacher, or maybe simply formed from life experience.
A Christ-follower also develops values based on inspirations, inheritance, experiences, etc… but a Christ-followers values are shaped by someone else as well. Once we proclaim Jesus as Lord the Holy Spirit goes to work shaping and reshaping our values. He helps us re-interpret experiences. He enlightens us to inspirations we wouldn’t have found on our own. He is constantly shaping our values, molding us more and more into the image of Christ.
Of course this is a dialogue. We are not inanimate lumps of clay. For me sometimes it may even be better defined as an argument. He says, “This way” and I reply, “no.” That’s when He breaks me (or more often allows me to be broken by the world) and shows me whose actually in charge.
A Christ-followers values may look like those of others in the culture around them on the surface, but they are in constant dialogue with the Spirit and they submit to the proclamation “Jesus is Lord” which makes them different.
We are in culture, part of it, living in it completely…but we are different from it. We are like a virus. We carry different DNA – “Jesus is Lord” DNA. The longer we are part of the culture, the more we infect it with our “Jesus is Lord” DNA.
As we enter into relationship with others in culture our Holy Spirit infected values definitely influence the culture, but they never really transform it. We, the individuals living in the culture, become labeled as people who see the world differently. The best we can hope for, I believe, is a compliment a friend gave me recently. She told me in an email, “You have a different and beautiful way of being.” That is not really me she is talking about. It is the Holy Spirit driven, “Jesus is Lord” DNA I’m bringing into the culture we live in together.
Only when others in the culture make the proclamation “Jesus is Lord” and the Holy Spirit begins influencing them as well will the culture actually be transformed. When another gets saved the team grows from one Christ-follower to two.
Ever throw a stone in a pond? It creates ripples. If you throw two stones more ripples are created. The more stones you throw, the more ripples are created.
As a side note – I live in a city that desperately needs transformation. How does that happen? It won’t happen if we cluster together and begin speaking to culture from our fortresses of solitude and safety.
A few of are working to become ripple making stones by intentionally imitating Jesus in our cultures. Soon (please Jesus) more will join. Then more. Then more…until finally the proclamation of “Jesus is Lord” becomes the dominate voice in my city and the imitation of Him, the intentional replication of His love, becomes common practice. Only then will light come to the dark places of Baltimore.
One final post coming on this topic…do our current systems empower this entrance into culture or hinder it.