CHURCH & MINISTRY
An Intra-Cultural Christian
By Rebekah Largent
As Christians, we know that we're called to "live in the world, but not of it." We're directed to live counter-culturally so that we will be a shining light to those living in the darkness of their sin. Our example will show them how people can live in and according to God's great love, and hopefully entice them to discover a life with God for themselves.
Unfortunately, in our desire to be different, we often completely separate ourselves from that world, living in our own little Christian bubble. We go to church on Sunday, join church athletic leagues, become involved with church programs, and may even work at Christian ministries. Not one of these things is inherently bad — in fact, the early church lived their lives in a community, sharing their possessions and caring for each other in hard times. But how can we be a light to others if they can't even see us?
Living counter-culturally is actually a lot more involved than just a list of dos and don'ts. Jesus Himself showed us that. When Christ was on the earth, He made it clear that He didn't come to serve the people who already knew Him. He came to "seek and to save what was lost." Jesus surrounded Himself with those whom others deemed "unworthy" — tax collectors, adulterers, the so-called dregs of society. Even some of His handpicked disciples were pretty rough around the edges!
Before you think, "Things were different back then. Hanging out with "sinners" didn't mean the same thing as it does today"...think again. Jesus got a lot of flack from the Jewish religious leaders for the company He kept. The "righteous" condemned Jesus for spending time with the unrighteous. Once, when Jesus was eating dinner with a room full of tax collectors (friends of His disciple Levi, by the way), the Pharisees looked down their noses at the scene. "They asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?'" (Mark 2:16). Jesus overheard, and His response summed up His entire ministry philosophy: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Luke 2:17).
Jesus was our perfect example for life and living. And He expects us to do more than follow his example "in theory." We can say that we love non-believers. We can even be kind to them when we run across them. But our Lord expects far more of us. In order to be a true witness, a shining light, we must be among them. We have to be in relationship with them.
This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to "living in the world, and not of the world." We aren't allowed to live "next to" the world. We're to live "in the world." Don't get me wrong — we are still not to participate in the culture of the world. We don't have to get drunk in order to relate to the partiers, or show support for sinful lifestyles to relate to our liberal friends. But in order to be a true light, non-believers need to know us. And in order to know us, they need to have access to our lives.
A perfect example of this was the wedding of Heath and Amanda. These two young people spent much of their time ministering to the homeless in their city of Nashville. The homeless were so much a part of Heath and Amanda's lives that the couple had their wedding with them. Not in front of them, but among them — the crowds of homeless were the guests of honor. What a beautiful picture of doing life with the least of these! Rather than putting themselves up on a pedestal, Heath and Amanda made it clear that the homeless were truly their friends. (You can read more about Heath and Amanda's wedding here.)
This may very well take us outside our comfort zone. But we can't forget that we too are sinners. If we remember that, it will be easier to live among other sinners so that we may share the light of Jesus Christ's atoning sacrificing for those who believe in Him.
Photo Credit: Kersley Fitzgerald
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