Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cultural Intimacy

Depending upon whom you are asking, the question of cultural intimacy will yield a positive or negative response. Should the church or Jesus Followers be intimate with their culture? Intimate as in marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity. I think if one studies the life of Jesus they will notice a very close association with culture or the world. Ah, there's the real dirty word, the world. Have you ever noticed how many Christians insist that we are "IN" the world but not "OF" of the world? They go on to claim that if you're a friend of the world, you're an enemy of God. Could God be his own worst enemy?

I think the Scripture is clear that, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

Doesn't sound much like God hates the world to me. Does it to you? I hear so many preachers preach this sort of contorted doctrine as if we are to have no alliance with the world whatsoever. This may stand to reason why their ministries are failing and the only ones that are attending their meetings are those that don't have anything better to do anyway or habit simply gets the better of them.

Jesus spent much more time in the "world" arena than he did the "religious" arena. He was always mixing it up with "sinners" and avoiding the "saints". He spent so much time with the heathen that he was referred to as the "Friend of sinners". The shame of it all!

The problem herein is that too often we misunderstand the real meaning of the word, world. We carelessly define this word to mean "lost humanity". While there are certainly biblical passages that would support that definition, we must be careful not to use that definition in every instance the word is used. How is it Jesus could say in John 3:16 that God loved the world and then in 1John 2:15 "Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." It would appear that God is confused and really isn't sure of what our feelings toward the world should be. But we would be wrong to think that. The words are different in use and context.

In John 3:16-17, the world would represent the whole of humanity. The word in the original Greek is Kosmos, from which we derive, world. Though this word has other meanings such as ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts', as the ornament of the heavens, in the context of John 3:16 it represents you and I and countless others like us.

In 1John 2:15, the world would represent world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly. The word here in the original Greek is also Kosmos but within the context it calls for a separate definition, "The whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ." John is saying that we must be crucified to the world and the lusts that fill it. Our hearts are not capable of holding love for God and a love for the things of this life. The things of this life are the weeds that come up and choke us.

So then where does this idea that we should be enemies of God if we are friends with the world come from? I think it comes from a lack of proper attention and willingness to search God's heart. I cringe when I hear Preachers say we musn't fellowship with the world (sinners) because what fellowship does light have with darkness?!? Are we afraid to be like Jesus? Are we afraid to love our Kosmos and participate in its life and function within its arena? Are we afraid to be like Jesus and become deeply intimate within our culture?

A quick test will determine where we are in this. Write down on a piece of paper all the names of your friends. You know, those you go to dinner with or have over to your home for dinner or would go to their home for dinner. You know, your friends. Now, how many of those friends are sinners or un-believers? If our list has more believers than non-believers, I wonder just how intimate we are with our Kosmos.


Erin Nicole said...

Thank you for you comment
- I noticed that your top book or one of them is velvet elvis -- I agree it is definately a must read. I was totally excited when Ir ead this book

Shannon said...

One of my all time favorite reads! I've recommended it to several people who all loved it themselves. Matter of fact, one of my brother in laws read it and it was the first book he'd ever read from cover to cover. :)

Thanks for stopping in. :)

Colin A. Lamm said...

We find it very difficult to live in the realm of the tension between two extremes -- where wisdom often resides. We do not have to go too far to see people at one or the other of these two tendencies. What is even more interesting is the tendency in some of us to reverse the whole idea of loving, or not loving the world: We somehow come to a conviction which has us hate the world that Jesus tells us to love, and love the world that John tells us to hate -- missing the point of both. Very thoughprovoking and chalenging post!

Shannon said...

Living in one extreme or the other is a comfortable location to reside. I struggle with that place myself because the position of extreme is easy. It is as you say, the realm between the two, that is hardest to find balance and equality.

John Smulo said...

Great post Shannon. And good litmus test at the bottom--a challenging one, but a good one.

Shannon said...

Thanks John! So, did you pass the test? Just kidding 0_^