Why I Cannot Write Off My Culture
We live in dark days; days of moral confusion and the rejection of our God. The moral and spiritual decline is evident in how our culture champions sin and delights in what causes our God displeasure. Our leaders champion the right for women to abort their babies. Society champions the right and freedom for sexual expression outside the will of God. It is a culture proud in overturning the heart of God’s created moral order. Can anyone truly disagree with this spiritual diagnosis? In his opening chapter to the Romans, Paul describes the kind of culture we live in as ready for God’s judgement.
Amidst this moral decline, as the people of God, how should we respond? Should we fall into judgementalism or cynicism? One would be forgiven, to conclude all is lost and God has walked away and handed the nation over to his wrath. Should that be our attitude as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I to write off my culture in light of its godlessness?
As our nation prepares to head to the polls, I want to give three reasons why we must not write off our culture as the people of God.
1. The Gospel Demands I Don’t
There are times in scripture where God explicitly forbids one even praying for their culture. One thinks of God’s command to his prophet Jeremiah, “do not even pray for these people” (7:16). “These people” are God’s chosen covenant people! But they have sunk so low in their turning away from God’s will, Jeremiah is commanded not even to pray for their delivery! That’s a serious indictment against his own generation. They were a people set apart for judgement.
But our Lord has not given us this command. What he has given us, is the full of revelation of the gospel. He has granted us a crucified Saviour, that is able to fully take the judgement of God for any who call on the name of Christ for repentance and forgiveness of sin. The people of Jeremiah’s day were not given this explicit hope. This is the gospel entrusted to the Church of Christ to bear witness to, amidst an unbelieving culture.
The gospel both warns of coming judgement and promises saving mercy. Both of these realities are at the cross of Christ and both must be in our hearts as we seek to win the lost and evaluate our culture. Mercy is beautiful precisely because the context into which it speaks, is surrounded by awful darkness. The gospel demands I never write off my culture, not while the promise of saving mercy still stands.
2. Church History Demands I Don’t
We have the benefit of hindsight. Over 2000 years of hindsight! Even a sweeping glance at the history of the church and God’s purposes, testify to his grace and power to show mercy. Church history is littered with God’s saving mercy operating amongst cultures and societies that had turned its back on him.
Consider Rome at the height of its power. A truly wicked city where sexual debauchery was rampant, infanticide was the norm and its leaders corrupt. A culture confused and morally nowhere. And yet not outside of God’s power to display his mercy! The Apostle Paul was ecstatic when it came to his attention, that not even Rome was able to prevent the gospel from bearing fruit there (1:8).
Or think about the dark climate of the days leading up to the reformation. All of Europe was gripped by corruption and a false church. It had twisted the truth and enslaved many under its lies. People were not even permitted a Bible in their own language. It was a culture that saw heretics burned alive for refusing to conform. What hope was there for such a time as this? And yet into this very darkness, sparks of God’s saving mercy would, in the famous words of one dying martyr, “light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” He was right. They were the words of a man who gave his life for the good a culture that deserved nothing but judgement. If he refused to write off his culture, neither will I write off mine.
3. My Own Salvation Demands I Don’t
It is God’s pleasure to rescue sinners that do not deserve his mercy. I myself am a sinner that deserves the consequences that the rest of my culture warrants. But it has pleased the Lord to deliver me out of the hands of a society that is spurning his glory. Therefore, I am proof that the grace of God is real and active in our own time. If I write off my culture, I should write off myself.
Abraham didn’t even write off Sodom, but rather pleaded for its well-being. What was the effect of his plea? Lot and his daughters were saved. Abraham didn’t write off the unbelieving culture of Sodom and his prayers were answered, because God loves to rescue sinners that do not deserve mercy. I was redeemed from an unbelieving culture precisely because of those who would rather plead God might show mercy rather than write off their generation. Therefore, let us neither write off the time God has called us to be faithful in.
Assistant Pastor at Trinity Road Chapel (TRC) Tooting, London