I want to start this series by recognizing that Culture Wars are dangerous to discuss. The issues are highly charged. Views on such issues reflect deeply held beliefs and real life experiences. Those who ‘win’ can significantly impact the lives of those who lose.
No wonder offenses accumulate so easily between two people (or groups of people) on opposite sides of a Culture War. Poorly chosen words can ignite a firestorm of anger and invite vicious counterattacks. In light of all this, the language we choose is critical.
Unfortunately, we tend to adopt the “language of war” when we discuss Culture Wars. Our language transmits more than the words we speak; it conveys unspoken presumptive beliefs that lurk beneath the surface of our actual words.
One of our unspoken beliefs that rises to the surface of Culture War language is the myth that somehow our battle is Good versus Evil. This is not to suggest that there is no such thing as evil: no doubt, evil exists throughout this world in which we live. But in adversarial venues, we often assume and promote the idea that we are right (or good) and our opposition is wrong (or evil).
We often do not recognize this unspoken belief lurking within our hearts and that is the danger. As long as we allow this myth to undiscerningly rule the interior of our hearts, we will live with ‘planks’ or ‘blind spots’ that prevent us from seeing others clearly. As long as we live under the power of this myth, we will tend to see false shadows of those who oppose us.
Culture Wars tend to quickly progress from the expression of positions to the pitting of one group versus another. It is much easier to fight to win our particular position if our ‘warriors’ see the opposition as an enemy. Ad hominem attacks are thus common in Culture Wars: we denigrate other people as we seek to win audiences to our position. If you watch carefully, you’ll note that ad hominem attacks tend to come from the side who is losing at any given time.
At a political level, this is reality. This is how ‘the system’ works. Fine. My concern, however, is when Christians who are born into the Kingdom of God buy into the battle techniques of ‘the system.’ We mimic the ways of this world and soon we are denigrating others as our enemy instead of loving them toward the Savior who is seeking to reach them.
The ‘voice’ of the Christian Soldier gets replaced by the voice of the Culture Warrior. Our witness to reach the world for Christ gets twisted into a witness against those He seeks to reach. We visibly position ourselves against others and the legacy of our witness becomes a Gospel that stands against people.
Jesus is the ‘voice’ behind every Christian Soldier and He is the author of Kingdom Culture. He calls us to cultivate a witness (a reputation, if you will) that reflects HIS great love for others. Yes, even “evil” people: the people who look a lot like…us.
Kingdom Culture does not speak two languages and it does not serve two agendas. Kingdom Culture strictly demands our allegiance: we either stand for it and invest in it or else we stand against it and end up investing in other kingdoms.
Jesus never said, “Love your enemy – except for this group of really bad people.” He instructed us to lay down our lives by serving, loving and reaching out to all people. Jesus particularly calls us to serve, love and reach out to our enemies. In this command, Jesus constructs a loophole-proof theological doctrine in which the Christian has no enemy. This is Kingdom Culture: to progressively abide in Christ such that we can love even those who despise us; to the point of death if necessary.
In the intro to this series, I did not use a specific Culture War issue for illustration. I used conflict or disagreement with a spouse, a parent or a close friend. That is because we not only fail to get Kingdom Culture right with our enemies; we so often fail to get it right even with those who we dearly love!
Imagine if we lived out Jesus’ vision of Kingdom Culture…imagine how many marriages could be saved…imagine how many fewer enemies we would have close to home…imagine how this wave would ripple throughout our lives with a supernatural power to change our world.
That we fail at this calling is understandable: we are simple, selfish, insecure sheep after all. By God’s amazing grace, we can be thankful that we have forgiveness when we fail. What we do not have is a Jesus-justified position for aligning ourselves against others and defining them in denigrating ways; what we do not have is an exception under which we can escape His command to love; what we do not have is the flexibility to carry out two agendas: we cannot lay down our lives for our enemy while we simultaneously position ourselves against them and see them as our enemy.
I’ll close this entry by simply saying this: we are not as ‘good’ (or right) as we think we are and others are not as ‘bad’ (or wrong) as we think they are. For those who might typically find themselves opposed to Christians, we likewise are not as bad as you think we are. But this message is to Christians who claim to have the power of Christ dwelling within them: HE is the one who gives us the power to live out Kingdom Culture and thus we are the ones who are responsible to live it out.
If those “on the other side” are NOT our enemy, who are they? We don’t know. Why? Because we’ve defined them as our enemy for so long that we have presumed their whole existence without ever really investing much in getting to know them.
So what do we do? We’ll have to get to know them. But to find out just ‘who’ they are, we will have to leave our safe harbor of easy, presumptive, classifying Christianity and get down to the really messy Kingdom Culture work of serving, listening to, loving and getting to know those ‘on the other side.’
We’ll have to wine and dine with sinners. We’ll have to resign as Culture Warriors and re-sign as Christian Soldiers who carry the ministry of reconciliation intended to draw all people toward Christ.
Who is my enemy? Jesus asks a different question: He asks, Who is your neighbor?
Stay with me as we continue to look at Kingdom Culture.
May His Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven,
Click here to easily navigate to Part 2.
This series on Kingdom Culture is not an attack on Christians involved in political processes. Rather, it seeks to cultivate a ‘voice’ of the Gospel that is unencumbered by political identities and initiatives so that Christ’s Kingdom Culture can shine brightly into our world.