When it comes to culture, including media (TV, movies, etc) and politics, there are three different approaches that Christians tend to take:
1. Reject Culture. Some Christians see the world as ‘evil’ (and at times, rightly so) and therefore all culture is to be rejected. Christians are called to be ‘holy’ which means to be ‘separate’ from the world. Christians end up living in their own sub-culture – with Christian communities, Christian bookshops, Christian TV, and even Christian jewelry! The danger with this approach is that Christians end up very ‘different’ from the world but because of their isolation they have ‘no audience’ and therefore no positive ‘influence’ on the world.
2. Embrace Culture. Other Christians go the other way – they fully embrace culture in response to Jesus command to live ‘in’ the world. The danger with this approach is that if we uncritically embrace everything in our culture, we can end up no different than the world we live in. As a result, we have no message to offer them, despite the fact that we have relationships with them. We aren’t isolated, as in the first approach, but we are so immersed in the culture that we lose our distinctiveness.
3. Engage Culture. A more balanced approach, modelled exceptionally well by Jesus, is for us to ‘engage’ with our culture. We are to be ‘in’ the world, but we are also called to be ‘not of’ the world. Jesus’ used metaphors for this – ‘salt’ and ‘light’. Both of these things make an impact but only when there is proximity. Salt in the salt shaker has no affect and light only helps if it is shining in the darkness.
The first two approaches are easy - they are 'black' and 'white'. The third approach is much more difficult - even risky. It's 'grey' ... but it's well worth the effort.
Jesus spent a lot of time with people far from God and, amazingly, he never got angry or aggressive with them (‘sinners’). The only people he did get angry with were extremely religious people, especially the Pharisees who were very legalistic.
Which way do you lean? Do you tend to reject culture too easily? Do you tend to embrace culture too much? How could you engage with culture more effectively this week?