Counterculture: Following God over Culture

I’m assuming that most people have heard something of why disciples of Jesus the Messiah cannot just “go with the flow” of the culture. Culture is a human construct, but one that is also unavoidable; truth and goodness, in contrast, are part of the very essence of God but may be followed or rejected, though not with each its consequences seen and unseen.

The White Walls of Minas Tirith

But how are we to be countercultural?

How to Do It

First we have to remember the reason for doing the countercultural and deriving the means from the reason.

We recognize that no culture on earth, including church culture, is infallible. We must also act on the knowledge that the only infallible one is God and not ourselves, which means for us that the only standard that we can hold as a banner and not a secondary tool is the revealed truth of Jesus our Saviour, which is the gospel, and its infallible record and exposition in the holy Scriptures.

Therefore, given that the goal is to submit our lives to God’s authority, we do it by never taking the cultural norm as the true norm. This includes any church (sub)culture, I must add. I have written before on measuring our actions by Scripture rather than tripping over our own toes trying to “fit” what the prevailing culture says.

This means also that if there were a universal command from God for women to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, we would have to follow it. The same would be true of any less physically visible things.

So we can despise the lying voice that threatens to paralyse our obedience to God, remembering that the Lord, being sovereign over all, is bigger than any cultural constructs of sinful men.

Some Countercultural Instructions from Scripture

Some countercultural things to which God calls all people who seek to obey :

  1. The Lord said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk. 6.27–28). There is little vague about this in either principle or specific practice, but He said more: “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Lk. 6.29). This is pretty radical. “Really? Don’t keep someone from taking everything from you except for your underwear?” Well, this seems to be what Jesus said, so yes.
  2. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Mt. 18.7–9). This is a hyperbole, but as a hyperbole it is not there to be disregarded as insane or even as too extreme, but rather to be seriously considered, not just in word but also in deed.
  3. Shun hypocrisy but do not pretend to avoid all judgement (Jn. 7.21–24): “Jesus answered them, ‘I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.’ ”
  4. Oppose the commonly-accepted unjust taking of human life (Ex. 20.13). Yes, I’m talking about infanticide in the womb or out of the womb, unjust war, assisted suicide and human euthanasia. For the same reason, live lives that do not cause people to die, and do not give money to entities that donate money into these things, because the Hebrew word for ‘murder’ in Exodus 20.13 also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence. Plead the cause of those who have been wronged.
  5. Stay married to your spouse until one of you dies (Rom. 7.1–3; 1 Cor. 7.10–11, 39–40); divorce because of the spouse’s adultery is an exception (Mt. 5.31–32). Reject lust (Mt. 5.27–30). Refuse to use sex as a weapon against your spouse (1 Cor. 7.3–5), and instead be utterly selfless in marriage (Eph. 5.22–33).
  6. Do not sue other believers (1 Cor. 6.1–8), but be reconciled (Mt. 18.15–20).

What do you think? What else is there that everyone does but believers are called to refuse, or that no one does but believers are called to do?

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