Christians need to recognize that holiness is separation from sin, not separation from sinners. Put another way, holiness does not mean separation from people in the culture around us, but separation from the sin in culture around us.
For Christians to identify with and be identified with Christ, we need to do more of what He did. We need to be accused of the things he was accused of. We need to spend more time, not less, with the people he did.
Our churches need to better understand when we need to reflect and when we need to reject the culture in which God has placed us. As one who cares about discerning cultural engagement, I will spend more of my time helping churches understand and engage the cultures around them.
We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.
I do not think, however, that we only need the particular emphasis about which I am enthusiastic.
Other approaches to culture will be essential. For this too-simple article, the second approach would be that of culture defenders. These people are the ones who will take a stand in both the political and social arenas on issues that have to do with human flourishing.
They will, hopefully in a winsome and gracious manner, stand in the public square to speak on issues of life, family and morality. They will be the evangelical voice on important issues where Christians are concerned.
They will defend certain positions, arguing that it is better for human flourishing to value certain things in any culture. These people will participate in important work and start organizations that carry it out, as well as supporting those who are already involved.
Though the work or organizations may not be inherently “Christian,” culture defenders will engage with them for the sake of the gospel. I imagine this may be the most difficult work, but people’s religious liberty will have to be defended, the greater good will need to be advanced, and truth will need to be said.
I imagine that some culture engagers and culture creators will roll their eyes, thinking that the culture defenders are not as helpful or as discerning as they are. And some, indeed, won’t be helpful—fighting in ways that are unhelpful and counterproductive. However, culture defenders will be an important part of our future engagement with culture as we move to the new cultural reality of our time.
We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.
A third way Christians will approach culture is as creators. Now, I need to distinguish here between culture creation and evangelical culture creation.
2014 was the year of the Christian film. Evangelicals released all kinds of different films last year. The unimaginable success of God’s Not Dead caught people completely off-guard, both Christian and not (you can see more from the author of the book on which the movie is based in my interview with him here).
Many of these films were made by Christians for either Christian consumption or evangelistic purposes. Their messages are overt and clear, and they are meant to challenge those who do not share the evangelical worldview.