In the fairy tale, The Sky is Falling, Chicken Little runs around telling his fellow animal friends that the sky is falling down and that they need to tell the King. Some nights as I scroll through news apps, it would seem that Chicken Little is correct. The sky is falling! The world seems to be disintegrating in front of our eyes. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to riots, racism, unemployment, foreign dictator’s threats, the economy, Amber Alerts, and sex rings; not to mention drunk driving deaths, gang violence, corrupt businesses, narcissistic politics, and a disregard for Judeo-Christian ethics, everything seems to be falling apart.
What should be the response of Christ followers to our culture? Let’s highlight three common responses by Christ followers.
Let’s Find a Cave
The first response is the Let’s-Find-a-Cave perspective. This espouses that if we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ, then we must dissociate from the evils and the problems of the world. We have seen many movements like this through the years, such as the Amish who separate themselves from the prevalent culture by locking themselves into the culture of the early nineteenth-century settlers. Or the compound people, who buy a large plot of land in Montana, put up a big fence, stockpile food and some guns, with a big “KEEP OUT OR GET SHOT” sign. Individually, we also do this by creating a Christian subculture that isolates us from the world. If you want to, you can attend a Christian school, do business with Christian businesses, have a Christian doctor, listen to Christian music, watch Christian TV, shop at Christian owned stores and surf the internet with a Christian browser. Not that any of these things in and of themselves are bad, but if we are honest we’ll admit that we have the capacity to create an approximately 90% “Christian bubble.” This is not only a non-biblical response, but it also does not work.
We Are all One
Another response is, “We Are All One,” also known as the Can’t-We-All-Get-Along attitude. Here, the thinking goes, “Let’s not isolate ourselves from the world. Let’s become like the world.” In fact, eliminating the distinctions between following Christ and living in the world is the goal of this perspective. In Germany during WWII, the official church did this by supporting Hitler and the Nazi Party. In Europe, where Christianity was paramount for 1,500 years, most of the beautiful churches are no different today than the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They are just tourist attractions. In the US, you can find many churches that believe everything: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Zoroastrian – no problem, they are all the same. In this worldview, no one wants to offend anyone, and the goal of life is usually to make money, buy a house, save for retirement, and work for the weekend with a little church sprinkled in.
Storm the Beaches
The last common response is the Storm-the-Beaches approach. I remember an old Marine shirt that said: Kill them all and let God sort them out. Unfortunately, some Christ followers and churches have that military mentality: “Let’s Bible-bash the culture….If they don’t get it, open their mouths wide and crank open the fire hydrant of theology! If we berate them enough and slam the culture enough on social media, perhaps they will finally cave in and surrender to our ways.” These are the churches that legalistically present, “the my way or the highway” approach to secondary and non-essential theological issues.
So how are we to respond to our culture? We do what God did. He stepped out of heaven and into the world.
What amazes me about Luke 2:6-7 is the completely ordinary nature of Jesus’ birth. The one time God, in human form, enters history and penetrates the culture, He enters just like each and every one of us did – a fragile, crying, baby. In verse six, it says: “The time came for the baby to be born.” Jesus had to be carried by Mary for nine months (plus-or-minus a few weeks) just as we all were. This wasn’t some kind of supernatural one-month pregnancy. This was Mary’s first son. She was a virgin, and this baby had no human father. But Jesus was fully human. The Christmas song Away in a Manger was wrong when it said, “no crying he made.” He did cry, and he needed to be wrapped just like other babies of that day, fed, and provided for.
Not only did God become man, but he also entered the world in very humble conditions. He wasn’t the son of the wealthy and powerful, but of a common carpenter and a teenage girl. Jesus wasn’t born in a million-dollar birthing room with sanitary walls, heat lamps, nose suckers, and professionally trained nurses and doctors. There weren’t any proud grandparents sitting in the waiting room. He didn’t receive a baby shower, cards, and balloons. There was no emergency infant ICU, just in case. No – Jesus was born not unlike many babies all over the world today in impoverished nations. He was a human baby born to a poor family under adverse conditions. God became man and dwelt among us.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14
The author is not only telling us that God became man but also that he was, in fact, God. The Word, or Logos, became flesh. The Greek word Logos was used by philosophers in that day to express the central principle of the universe. John is saying in a language that his audience could understand that the central being in the universe, God himself, the Creator, became human. This man, Jesus, was God in flesh. He walked, he talked, he slept, but he also healed, fed thousands, and rose from the dead.
And so, Jesus is our model. He stepped out of heaven and into the world. One scholar put it this way:
“He dressed himself in the customary garb of the day where he lived. He spoke the language of the day in which he lived. He fully inhabited the cultural space of the first century…If our Savior joins us where we are, not where we ought to be, what excuse do we have to not join people where they are while insisting on where they ought to be” – Leonard Sweet
We must be a people that steps beyond the walls of the Christian community and enters the arena that God has set before us – our homes, neighborhoods, jobs, community, and world. We must not hide from, assimilate into, or try to destroy the people around us. But like Christ, we must seek to understand the culture, serve people, and speak in a way that all can understand about the hope that is found in Jesus.