HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO LIVE?
Since our Saturday morning church service this weekend, my mind has been preoccupied with our role in this culture. What do I mean? Well, I have been asking questions like this... If it is true that this world is not our home then how should we live while we are here? Or, to ask that question a different way... If our primary citizenship is in heaven, then what role has God called Christians to while we remain here on this earth?
For some - like the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites - a Christian is not supposed to engage with culture at all. Why? Because culture is where the sinners live. It is an irredeemable space of sin and vice that will tempt the faithful children of God away from true worship. Thus, "salvation" comes by avoiding culture at all costs.
On the other side of the continuum, are the mainline denominations that wholesale embrace culture. These are churches that champion societal causes, redefine Biblical truths that are out of step with modern norms, and essentially become so indistinguishable from the world they become utterly carnal. To this group, "salvation" comes through societal acceptance and participation.
Now, while each of these views is clearly wrong, it is the middle that often seems impossible to find. What is right? How much should we avoid the world? How much should we engage? What is faithful and what is harmful for a believer?
These are important questions for us to ponder.
And while the scope of this blog will not allow for a proper treatment of these questions, let me offer you a simple metaphor that I have been considering and I hope will be helpful for you as well. Christians are both citizens and ambassadors for Christ.
Let us look at both for just a moment.
According to the Bible, we were made citizens of the Kingdom of God by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ alone. We were rescued from the temporary and finite and delivered over into the eternal and infinite.
Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, that because of what Christ has done, our primary and ultimate citizenship is now in heaven. This not only means that we belong to a different and better country than the one we currently reside in, but it also means that we live by a different and better culture than the one we reside in as well.
For instance, Just as Middle Easterners do not shake with their left hands and the English drive on the opposite side of the road from North Americans, so citizens of heaven have a unique and vibrant culture that is different from all other peoples around us. And while we were once members of these earthly societies, now, because of Christ, we have different norms. Different behaviors. Different hopes and dreams. And an entirely different culture!
And of course, it must be mentioned, while all cultures are beautiful and distinct in their own ways, the culture we have been given by Christ is utterly supreme. It is the only citizenship that will not fade. It is the only culture that will live on forever. It is not one among the many in a melting pot of pluralism, it is superior in every way to all other cultures on earth because it is rooted in the sovereign and eternal King.
Because of what Christ alone has done, we can live visibly, authentically, and proud of our heavenly heritage out of gratitude to Christ. We can be free of militarism and judgmentalism because we did not earn it; He did. And that means we can live our lives in an "other-worldly" fashion, doing things that stand out in this world because we no longer look like locals but grace-filled strangers.
As citizens of heaven, our lives get to tell the tale of our great King, His holy culture, and our redemption every day we are called to remain.
But more than just living the Gospel, or demonstrating the Gospel through Godly behavior, Christ has also appointed us as His ambassadors.
In another New Testament book, Paul makes this clear:
in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
This means we were reconciled to become reconcilers. We were delivered so we can deliver others. And we were saved by Jesus to represent Him to the nations!
Like an ambassador today, we have the privilege of representing our King and His culture to the world. We not only get to live it, but we also get the joy to share it. We not only celebrate and embrace it, but we also get to speak it. And just like Jesus left heaven and lived among us, we momentarily get to forgo the joy of being home at heaven with our Lord, so that we can live and bring His Good News to the suffering nations today.
The greatest problem in this world is sin and separation from God. As Christians, you and I have not only been delivered from that, but we have also been left here by God for a season to share that glorious message. And while I have come nowhere close to perfectly defining "the middle", my hope is that this metaphor can be helpful for you as you consider how to live faithfully for Jesus in this world.
We live Biblically as His citizens.
We live boldly as His ambassadors.