Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Four Ways Cultural Change Can Make Us Better Christians

This weekend, I took my daughter on her first true college tour. 

Can I start by saying I'm not sure how we reached this place in life? My baby is a high school senior! I know she will do well in college, and I know SHE is ready.

I, however, am not. 

But, I digress.

Cassie will be majoring in some type of music program, so we attended a musical theater preview day at one of the state universities here in Oklahoma. During the question and answer session, several current musical theater students performed for the prospective students.

Before performing, each student introduced himself/herself by saying, "My name is [Jane], and my pronouns are [she/her]." 

As Cassie and I discussed the day, these introductions become a topic of conversation. She stated that it is perfectly normal to her to hear this type of introduction; to me, it is completely foreign, a major cultural change that completely took me off-guard. The conversation continued with Cassie stating that cultural changes such as this one has actually made her a better Christian. 

Many of us struggle with the changes that have taken place over the last two decades. We have watched as culture has shifted away from many beliefs we have held tightly. We have heard leaders of our country state we are no longer just a Christian nation. With all of the change, how do we as Christians grow in the midst of cultural change?

We remember that God's truths are absolute, but our interpretations of scripture are not. As I have grown and dug into scripture, I have come to realize that many things I have clung to are not actually God's truth but instead human interpretations of God's Word. I will start with divorce because it is my story. I was taught that divorce was never an option except in the case of adultery. I held tight to my marriage even in the face of adultery until I simply couldn't hold on any longer.

Over the years, I have examined the scripture and its teachings on divorce. As I look at scripture as a whole, I see a context of divorce in light of elevating women to a place of equality, not condemning divorcees. Is it possible that in an attempt to hold marriage sacred, we have misinterpreted the words of scripture and unintentionally held people captive in destructive and abusive marriages? Is it possible that we have elevated an institution over individuals and thereby made marriage an idol? Sadly, I believe we have.

But it's not just divorce. There are many beliefs we have held as absolutes that perhaps we have misidentified. Is it possible that our pride has blinded us to God's heart? Have we failed to remember that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Perhaps this cultural shift will help us remember this truth. 

We categorize sins, but God says we are all guilty. It's really easy as humans to place individuals in categories based upon their sins, and some sexual sins almost always go straight to the top. Adultery. Divorce. Homosexuality. It seems these are elevated to a place of more severe sin in most of our eyes. Yet, I don't believe that is how God sees it.

In the book of James, we are told that we are all law-breakers. Every single one of us is categorized as a sinner, a law-breaker. God didn't categorize my sins of lying lower than He categorized the adulterer. He said Jesus died for all of us, for all of our sins. My lies nailed Him to the cross just like someone else's adultery. 

I believe if God were to categorize sins, He would place the sins of pride, lies, and dissension at the top of the list. Don't believe me? Go read Proverbs 6:16-19 and see what it is God hates. As we see culture shift, we would do well to reexamine our own hearts and see if we fall into a category that God hates. 

Our responsibility is to love. Scripture is clear that love draws others to the Father. The new command we were given was to love others. We are told others will know we are Christians by our love

I don't care type of sinner we encounter, we are commanded to love. To love extravagantly. When we are confronted with the alcoholic? We are to love. When we see the divorcee? We are to love. When confronted with LGBTQ community? We are to love. 

God didn't give us caveats and tell us it was ok to marginalize certain segments of culture. Instead, He told us to love. Maybe the cultural change will challenge us to love as extravagantly as Christ loved us. 

We must remember grace and truth. Grace and truth absolutely cannot be separated; they go hand-in-hand with one another. But, if we must err to one side or the other, I always encourage you to err on the side of grace. Why? Because we do not see clearly but instead see as through a veil (1 Corinthians 3:12).

When Christ walked the earth, He always leaned toward grace. Think about the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). He never denied that the woman had sinned, but He chose to extend grace. What about the Samaritan woman at the well? He pointed out that she had been married multiple times (John 4), but instead offered grace (living water). Over and over, we see Jesus err on the side of grace.

And we would do well to follow His example. 

When it comes to truth, there are few things that truly matter. Jesus Christ, crucified and raised to life again. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Love and faith are the keys to living a life that pleases God. These are the absolute truths that must categorize our lives. 

Culture is changing. Maybe we aren't ready for it, but it is happening. We must remember that our ways--the ways of God--are foolishness to a world that does not know Him. We cannot expect the world to understand or to live by the truths that characterize our lives, our beliefs. 

Maybe, just maybe, as this world shifts further from God and the world becomes darker, our lights will shine brighter. God created us to live differently, to be in the world but not of the world. Maybe this cultural shift will challenge us as we learn to live out the scripture in a new and exciting way.