And what is that?
When Christianity gets assimilated and enmeshed too deeply into the surrounding culture it becomes something less than Christianity. There is a fine line between understanding our culture and learning to minister “contextually” (within the culture we find ourselves…being sensitive to its nuances) and so mixing the values of our faith with the values of the culture that what results is a cultural Christianity that isn’t Christianity at all.
This was Israel’s biggest problem we hear about in the prophets. This was warned about in Deuteronomy before they entered the land. This was the sin of Solomon. It was also a problem in the early church and was constantly warned about in the New Testament. Jesus prayed about this for his disciples in the garden. Paul wrote about this in his letters to not become so acculturated into paganism or Judaism or nationalism that one’s faith becomes a syncretized blend of something not of Christ. The churches of Asia we find in Revelation had fallen into the very same trap and ate the forbidden fruit not of living in a culture but belonging to a culture that is not of the Lord.
In contemporary Western culture we have exchanged idolatry for consumerism…the idol of wood and gold for the item of wood and gold. What results is a cultural Christianity that is consumeristic. The preaching must suit my needs as musts the worship and the children’s “program”. Church becomes a resource that serves me rather than me serving others, which is antithetical to the very example and teaching of Jesus that the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28, see also Philippians 2:1-11).
In Churches of Christ I believe modernism and rationalism has been somewhat of an idol for us and now for some postmodernism is becoming one as well. Our movement started at a time when people were rational, linear and analytical. Things were black and white and everything had to zero out mathematically at the end. The Bible was a pattern to behold, a math problem to be solved, and a legal document to be adhered to. Those can all be idols that cloud the actual culture Jesus calls for as well.
In all of this the answer for us today is the same as the answer was for them. The answer is to turn back to God…to still live in this world and be aware of the culture in which we live but to not let the parts of our culture that conflict with our faith take root in our hearts. We must jettison the parts of our culture that are incompatible with our faith rather than the other way around. We must seek God and when we seek Him we will find him. Finally, let us serve and view ourselves as servants rather than masters. It is from this vantage point that the kingdom becomes most clear and that true greatness can happen because we aren’t thinking too highly of ourselves which allows us to truly revere Christ as Lord.