As 2018 begins, it marks 12 years that I have been doing ministry with Pop-Culture and Christianity. Over the last decade I have always tried to focus on the good in culture and the positive ways that Christians can interact with culture. On occasion a student will write something for a newsletter or publication about culture that I have chosen not to publish. Typically it is because the article broadly condemns types of movies or music without getting into the intricate details of the art.
The way I see it, it is easy to Bible bash, condemn, and draw attention to the things in our culture that are out of step with biblical principles and the teachings of the Christian faith, but doing so is less than productive. When we condemn everything around us, we often do so in a manner that is void of love.
The Bible teaches that love should be our motivating factor. It should lead all that we do. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to stand up for what is right and I believe we should stand up for truth. But I also believe that Christians should build bridges to the Gospel.
Jesus associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and outcasts. As he met with these individuals, he loved them in spite of their sins. Jesus went to these people and he had no problems being seen with them even though the “religious” people around him condemned his actions. After spending time with these people, Jesus then showed them a better way to live. He showed them that loving God was about more than simply living up to a standard set of rules.
Paul also recognized that he was a sinner and that he was just as capable of falling prey to any sinful vice as anyone else. The Bible condemns sin, but it provides hope for sinners. We are all sinners. So I have tried to build my ministry around the idea of hope. Part of my ministry is showing how people can engage with art (such as TV, movies, and music) to think more deeply about their faith. By living within culture, we can better relate to those around us and can even use popular things in culture to help people make connections with ideas and principles in Christianity. (I am not suggesting that nothing is off limits for Christians, but I am saying that we should be very careful to broadly condemn things.)
This past year has been a wild ride full of scandal, political turmoil, and social outrage. When I look at 2017 I can’t help but think about all the issues that have divided people. I think of how angry so many people are–angry at the government, angry at the Hollywood double standard, angry at FBI investigations, angry at the state of healthcare, and angry about the moral vacuum in the hearts of many of our leaders (the same vacuum is present in the hearts of many citizens in general). But going into the new year I would like to suggest that we try to start fresh. Obviously the state of the world around us has not changed, but our attitudes can. I would like to encourage you to look towards the new year with hope and with the aim of being a real light in the midst of the darkness in the world around us.
Here are some things we can do this year. It is not a list of resolutions, but rather a list of five ways to better live out the Christian faith in 2018:
- Show grace to others. People have deep wounds from family members, past relationships and broken friendships, from jobs that did not turn out as they had hoped, from churches, and from disappointing life circumstances. As you talk with people this year, think about where they are coming from, what causes them to think and say what they do. Don’t just listen to others, but take time to hear what they are actually saying.
- Stand for what is right. When you vote, vote for who will do the best for the most people. When you see someone take advantage of someone else, say something. Help victims have a voice. When someone comes to you for help, be honest in the advice you give, seek wisdom, and follow the convictions of your spirit.
- Let your words be healing and unifying. Before posting things on social media that drive wedges between yourself and others, take time to think about what you are posting. Ask yourself how the post will reflect your relationship with Christ. Ask how it will effect the cause of Christ. Don’t post things that give Christianity or Christians a bad name. Don’t post things meant to hurt others.
- Be slow to judge. People have problems. We all have problems. Don’t turn against someone when a rumor is spread. Don’t condemn someone without hearing the person out. Treat others as if they are innocent until proven guilty. Remember that we all make bad choices.
- Pray for those who influence culture. Pray for political leaders. Pray for artists (directors, actors, writers, singers, etc.). Pray for teachers. Pray for researches and scientists. Pray for those you disagree with and for those who are like-minded with you. And if you happen to know anyone who is an influence on the culture around you (or the culture at large) be encouraging to them in your words, supportive in your actions, and a crutch for when times get tough. Do what you can to help those you have access to when you have opportunity to do more than pray.