The season is already changing here in central Virginia. We’ve already dipped into the 40’s overnight. This morning it was 60 degrees, crisp, bright and lushly green. I just love it. But soon the frost will come and winter follows. Most of the foliage will disappear.
Let’s face it: seasons change. And denying it doesn’t help. You’ve got to adjust your approach and expectations in each season.
A lot of Christians today are cursing the culture around us and trying to believe it’s not changing; that this is the same world that our grandparents (or great grandparents for those still wet behind the ears!) enjoyed 50-60 years ago. But it’s not. I agree that a lot of the changes in our culture are certainly carrying us further away from God’s ideas and order. But we need to have a biblical model for responding.
Here’s an article that John Piper published exactly ten years ago today. If it was true then, how much more now? See what you think. You can find the original post over at DesiringGod.org .
Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky that our country has been taken away. We don’t whine about the triumphs of evil. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. This is not new. This was the way it was in the beginning –- Antioch, Corinth, Athens, Rome. The Empire was not just degenerate, it was deadly. For three explosive centuries Christians paid for their Christ-exalting joy with blood. Many still do. More will.
It never occurred to those early exiles that they should rant about the ubiquity of secular humanism. The Imperial words were still ringing in their ears: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). This was a time for indomitable joy and unwavering ministries of mercy.
Yes, it was a time for influence–-as it is now. But not with huffing and puffing as if to reclaim our lost laws. Rather with tears and persuasion and perseverance, knowing that the folly of racism, and the exploitation of the poor, and the de-Godding of education, and the horror of abortion, and the collapse of heterosexual marriage, are the tragic death-tremors of joy, not the victory of the left or the right.
The greatness of Christian exiles is not success but service. Whether we win or lose, we witness to the way of truth and beauty and joy. We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with brokenhearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.
Piper says that seeing that our culture has changed shouldn’t make us cranky, whining, or angry. He suggests that we embrace the mindset of the First Century church. Instead of feeling like the owners of the culture, we must become servants here.
I don’t look to the future with any sense of deep fear or nostalgic sadness. This doesn’t absolve me of the need to seek God’s face and be ready to obey Him even in unpopular ways. But it does release me to rest in God’s sovereignty over nations. I realize that the church will no doubt look different in a few years/decades – either because of or in spite of our best efforts. We may even be sacrificed to the lions (or at least the courts).