Jesus and ​the culture

© June 13, 2018 | Schulter Etyang

There is nothing new under the sun, the wise king Solomon, once said. Every act or event is something that has, in the past, taken place. History revisits itself. The old cliché same old’, same old’ is true.

Our generation is living through a cultural moment right now that seems out of the ordinary, but the truth is, we have already lived through it.

The cultural moment we are living through right now is the issue of freedom of religion. This is a hot topic. If you listen to prominent religious voices, you will think, this has never happened before, that this is a new phenomenon.

In major Western nations and now in Africa, it has been assumed that Christianity has been and always will be the linchpin of these societies. When you study most Western and African constitutions, you will notice that the basic framework of these constitutions has been hewn from the Bible. Ideas such as human rights, individual responsibility, wealth creation, labour rights, gender equality, and even property rights have been picked right out of the Bible.

The truth is that whilst many founding documents of our countries contain Biblical truths and principles, we should not suppose that they are Christian and that we should defend this pose. The same Bible that has influenced founding documents of nations also has stories where different religions lived together and worshipped their gods side by side.

2 Kings 17 tells us the story about the nation of Israel. When they disobeyed their God, the true Yahweh, he allowed them to be taken captive. The King of Assyria took and placed them in Halah, by the Harbor, the river Gozan and in the cities of Medes.

Then, this king brought in people who were non-Jewish to occupy the land of Israel. When these non-Jewish people came into the land, they came with their gods and customs. They were taught how to fear the Lord but continued to worship their own gods. Yes, they were in Israel, God’s land, and yes, they feared the Lord, and yes, they also worshipped their own gods.

Here, we clearly see how a pluralistic society looks like. This is the essence of a pluralistic society. Plural meaning many, diverse, mixed, multicultural, multiethnic etc. Each religion is given the opportunity to practice without being restricted or without it trying to dominate other religions. This also points us to how democracy works.

I’ve had numerous conversations with Christians who believe that other religions shouldn’t be given the same consideration as their faith. It is true, of course, that not every religion is the same. But every faith must be accorded the same berth when it comes to democracy. Christianity should not be considered more highly than other religions and vice versa. Nations that are overtly pro-religion in any way, be it, Christianity, Islam, Hindu or Buddhist are not democratic nations. They are not pluralistic societies. They are religious nations with a democratic garb.

True democracies allow for diverse faiths and opinions to operate and thrive, all at the same time.

True democracies allow for diverse faiths and opinions to operate and thrive, all at the same time.

early church

Many Christians haven’t been taught that the early Church was planted in a pluralistic society. Yet, Christianity thrived in this kind of society. They were determined to show what was exclusive about Christianity, namely the gospel – the good news of who Jesus is and what he did for us especially his resurrection. That was their mission. They did not try to win seats in parliament to further a Christian agenda. They just spoke about what their faith was all about.

Most Christians need to learn the gospel and its implications in the world we live in. If we don’t do civic education to the Christian populace, we will chime out the same old cliché, that our nations are Christian nations, under attack. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Increasingly, other religions and non-religions have emerged through the centuries that have demanded a seat at the table. At the table are all kinds of people and faiths – LBGTQ, orphans, children, women, men, single, married, divorced, racists, non-racists, disabled, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, Atheists, Agnostics, refugees, immigrants etc. All these voices are clamouring for attention. The Christian voice cannot be the loudest and drown out other voices in the process. We all have equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law.

So, Christians need to learn and relearn how to live and engage the culture without losing our savour and without being too passive or aggressive. We have to. We cannot be too loud and pompous and we cannot afford to be passive and lame. We have to embody a certain confidence and humility, all at the same time. We might not always win but we will be heard, humbly speaking.

the gospel

But then if our contention is that we are losing the culture war, then we must find out why these other faiths have gained such traction in our supposedly Christian nations. The story in 1 Kings 17 points us to the reason. The nation of Israel had abandoned the gospel of grace. They had turned away from offering sacrifices and had turned to other gods. They turned to a counterfeit gospel. That’s the reason why they went into captivity.

So here’s the point. When we lose our taste for the gospel – the good news of who Jesus is and what he did for us, then we are given over to the world. The world comes in and fills up the vacuum, and squeezes the Christian faith out.

What if we went back to the true gospel? The gospel that solely focuses on Jesus and his work for us. The gospel might influence policy makers for the good of our societies. 

Hey Christian, love your neighbour as Jesus has loved you. This could go a long way in making your Jesus and His gospel, irresistible.

That’s what grace looks like

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Husband | Orthodox Charismatic Christian | Leads The Life Place | Enjoys meeting new people, reading, cooking, traveling and exercise | Loves Jo’burg