Our Present Cultural Moment

A Christian Perspective
Our nation is in turmoil right now. So is our city. In all likelihood, so is your own heart. How should a Christian respond when we hear claims of injustice? Violence? Riots? Unrest?

Some considerations:
First, according to the Bible, both good and evil exist in the world, and they exist in each of us. The twin-poles of a biblical anthropology are: 1. The dignity of all human beings (as God’s images) and 2. The depravity of all human beings (as slaves to sin). This is who we are. We bear radically more value than we could ever imagine, and we are radically more twisted and selfish than most people realize. Which means…

We also recognize the distorting damage of human sinfulness to societal structures. Sin is not just a personal problem that affects the individual alone. Sin is a force that shapes our societies. In fact, we know both from the Bible and from history that human culture inevitably trends toward evil and injustice apart from the transforming rule of Jesus Christ.

We recognize that the evil is not just “out there” – it’s in us. It’s so easy to demonize those who disagree with our position and pat ourselves on the back for being right. Christians have no basis for doing this. As we know from the Bible, sin has ruined every individual, including us (Rom. 3:23). Any solution to societal problems that does not address our individual need for freedom from sin is doomed to failure. We don’t just have a culture problem; we have a sin problem. We don’t just need societal transformation; we need personal transformation. Neither can be found apart from Jesus.

We recognize our limitations to judge things rightly. We live in a culture of soundbites, tweets, and instantaneous news that causes us to judge too quickly. It’s easier than ever to watch a short video clip and come to premature, emotion-driven conclusions. The words of James are timely for us, especially as users of social media: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Along the same lines, Proverbs 18:2 issues the caution that we should seek to understand and not just express our opinion. If there was ever a time to take these verses to heart, it’s right now.

Christians should model a counter-cultural unity and charity in this time of division. When the world is divided into us versus them, Satan uses that to fuel hatred among us.  With Christians it should be different.  Romans 12:9-21 gives explicit instructions as to how we treat each other, even our supposed enemies.  Even if someone decides to be our enemy, we are called to love them and pray for them. A good rule of thumb before posting or reposting anything on social media would be to slow down meditate on this passage for a minute or two:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:9-21

The Bible is not silent about race, or the evil of racial division. In fact, one of the most marvelous effects of the work of Jesus in undoing sin is that he abolishes the wall of hostility that divides humanity on the basis of race (Ephesians 2:14-16). In Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; instead, we are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). This reconciliation will be fully consummated at return of Jesus and the renewal of all things, where people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship in unity around the throne of God (Revelation 7:9). This is what we long for – this is what we are waiting for.

But our waiting should not be passive. As Paul makes clear, the Christian community ought to model what this future hope looks like right now through love, good deeds, compassion, and unity. Christians should stand for truth and justice, but not recklessly. Rather, our methods should reflect the example of Jesus, who modeled a way of life centered around truth, justice, love, compassion, understanding, patience, grace and mercy.
So while our hearts can be heavy at the sin and division around us, we are not without hope. Not because the evil in our culture isn’t real (it is), or because we have a naïve, triumphalistic hope that a few policy changes will solve every problem (they won’t), but because we serve a living Savior, Jesus Christ, who will one day return in glory to judge the living and the dead. The longings for justice in our culture are legitimate – so are the cries for mercy. But neither longing can ever be fully satisfied apart from Jesus Christ. We wait for him, because he is our only hope.

Pray, pray, pray. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our communities. Pray for our city, our nation, our world. Pray for your neighbors. Pray, along with generations of believers, the one-word prayer that fuses our longings, frustrations, and our hope: maranatha – “Our Lord, come.”