A blessing in our work is to see people surrender their culture to the Gospel. Do what?!? In the mission field, and at home, I have seen people grow in their faith to the point that obedience to God mattered more than their “cultural norms.” Their “norms” held them captive. The Gospel liberated them (see John 8:32). Have you seen those people? Are you one of them? Believers should lay aside every weight that hinders (Hebrews 12:1) us in our calling to be salt and light. And that means the call of the Gospel must supersede our cultural norms and/or expectations.

Perspective: Salt, Light, Watchmen and Culture

This post is one in a series. And the proper perspective for comments made here will be provided by seeing the preceding posts. Links to those posts follow my customary sign-off.

Now, I remind you of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Jesus talked to him and his cultural norm was:

I have done all that stuff, I keep all the rules, and I am good enough to follow you. (My paraphrase). 

Culture salt and light

Is this how the rich young ruler would look today?

That wasn’t Jesus’ point of view. He said the young man lacked one thing. Jesus told him to go and sell all he had, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus. Then, two amazing things happened.

First, the young man went away sorrowful. He was not willing to let go of what his culture told him was good in order to embrace what Jesus said was better. And second, Jesus was not overcome with fear and frustration. He did not run after the young man (a wealthy, tithing church member?) and beg him to reconsider and come back.

This is really another lesson. But today’s Church is plagued with people who are no more serious about following Jesus than this rich, young ruler. But pastors get weak-kneed, say it’s OK to be half-hearted, and then beg the uncommitted to come on in (as long as they contribute).

Culture salt and lightThere comes a point when we must believe more in what Jesus calls us to be and to do than in our cultural norms. In Africa, Masai believers had to let go of life-long ancestor worship in order to embrace Jesus. It could not be the ancestors and Jesus. Faith must be in Christ alone. It was my joy to explain that and to see them place their faith in Christ. Some African church leaders had to overcome their own cultural prejudice in order to embrace obedience to the call to evangelize people of every culture.

Believers in Russia had to let go of a culture steeped in sorrow, misery, and totalitarianism to experience by faith the joy and freedom of following Christ. Believers in the Caribbean must move beyond the lying, satanic influences of cults to embrace the message of truth and salvation.

Culture: Easy Is Over

Culture Salt Light

Masai village – Tanzania

The items above are the easy things. Why? Because it’s all over there and they have those problems. But we don’t have those problems.Really? See if you’ve heard things like these around your church:

  • I can’t reach out to those people, they are __________ (fill in the blank).
  • They have a horrible lifestyle. They can’t be interested in the Gospel.
  • I don’t know how to speak to them. They are richer/poorer than I am.
  • Those people are too educated/uneducated for me. I can’t speak on their level.

Here’s the model to follow:  Jesus valued obedience to His Father above all else. His obedience frequently carried Him across economic, racial and cultural barriers. His obedience bought our salvation. And we will only see the great things He desires in our lives when our passion for obedience is like His. And that means obedience is more important to us than our cultural norms, political parties, and denominational traditions.

Culture salt and lightWhat’s the answer? Let me give you a metaphor. Our answer is open hands (and hearts). Why is that the answer? Open hands release whatever they hold. Opening our hands allows Him to remove anything that keeps us from being effective as salt and light. And open hands have another huge advantage. They are ready to receive what He wants to put in them!

Like the young ruler, we face a choice. We can hang on to our norms, or we can open up, let go, and believe Him for better and greater things. There is more to come on culture. But this sets the stage for what will come!

Soli Deo Gloria! 

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Keith Burnett | keithburnett.org