How should Christians respond to culture?

As I watch from the cushions of my favorite chair or listen from the seat of my car, I am introduced to new and daily stories that share what I believe, to be representative of moral decay in American culture. If you are like me, these stories leave you shocked sometimes, shaking your head at what is happening around us. You are befuddled and confused as to how it is possible that others cannot see it? However, for those who seek to live by biblical truth, there’s a hidden temptation we must identify and avoid. 

Responding to his accusers, Job reminds us in Job 12:5 that it is easy for some, who think they are above it all, to point fingers and blame others for our problems while simultaneously scorning them. In my own personal experience, I think he is right. 

When we are comfortable in our own beliefs, it is very easy to feel “contempt” for those who do not believe the same way. When we do this, are we not a mimic of those that repudiate and retaliate against Christians for what they call “hate” speech? When we go down this path, we start to blame lost people for being lost and secular people for living by secular morality. That is a pit that I have fallen down myself numerous times. 

When we fall into that trap, we start to view the immorality of our culture through a superior and condemning attitude. We can then tend to forget that we are to grieve for the lost and stand in solidarity with those we are called to serve. 

When Nehemiah heard about the suffering of Jerusalem resulting from the nation’s sin and divine judgment, he turned to God and confessed the sins of Israel, himself, and the house of his fathers (Nehemiah 1:6). There is no evidence in scripture that indicates Nehemiah participated in any of the sinful acts that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, but yet, he counted himself among his Jewish people and made their condition his own. By this example, if we view declining morality from the lens of history, you might see that it was the church that was silent and abdicated from its role in culture, allowing culture to sway – adrift in the winds and seas of the world. Are we surprised by our present condition when the church removed itself from cultural discourse for the last 50-60 years? 

When Jesus Himself drew near to Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41–42). He then rode into the Holy City and called out that if the people had only recognized that day, they would have seen what was good for them, but now it was too late. He then warned, in vv.43-44, of what was about to befall them because they were blind. 

If we are truly the salt and light of the world, we must take responsibility for responding to the decay and darkness of the world, not blaming or condemning others (Matthew 5:13–16). If we condemn and blame, instead of taking responsibility, then are we not in danger of committing the same sins we condemn others for? 

The sixteenth-century theologian Erasmus advised us: “If Satan tempts you toward boasting, double your efforts to be humble in all things. If Satan tempts you to withhold your prayers, increase them. If your inclinations are to be greedy and selfish, increase your donations to charity. This way you can find in temptation renewed provocation to increased piety. 

“This procedure galls Satan the most. It makes him afraid to tempt you because nothing is more hateful to the Evil One than that he should be responsible for some good.”