I can vividly recall seeing a prison riot broadcast live on the news when I was a kid. Apparently, the entire prison divided into two gangs, and the tension escalated until a riot erupted. With mattresses burning and cameras rolling, guards tried to keep the peace between the two groups and took a beating from both sides. Today, America is pretty much one big prison riot.
This leaves us in a precarious position. With two factions rioting (the left and the right), Christian leaders can easily get caught up in the frenzy and feel the mounting pressure to pick a side and join the melee. The problem, however, is that most Christians don’t like their options.
On the right, there is a call to go back in time to the more “traditional” values of the past. Tragically, our nation’s history includes some things that are unholy and unhelpful, such as racism and slavery. Any honest Christian has to confess that no nation, including our own, is a photocopy of the culture in God’s Kingdom.
On the left, there is a call to go forward into a new era, where such things as taking unborn life and redefining marriage are part of the vision for a more “evolved” and “enlightened” society. For anyone who holds the Bible and historic Christian teaching in high regard, this seems like the spiritual equivalent of slapping Jesus in the face for approval ratings in the culture.
Not surprisingly, older Christians are more inclined to want to go back, while younger Christians are more inclined to want to go forward. The result is a divided Church that exists amidst a divided culture.
But there is an alternative.
Instead of going backward, or forward, we need to go downward in humility and prayer and look upward for hope and wisdom.
Ultimately everything you know – your life, family, community, and nation – will end, and when everything else goes away, the Kingdom will come down. That Kingdom is the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom will replace every culture on the earth. God’s Kingdom is your eternal home if you are His child. Your residence may be in your city and country, but your citizenship is in that Kingdom.
When we boil all of life, history, and culture down to the bottom line, it’s pretty simple: people either live culture up or Kingdom down. Those who live culture up tend to see their cultural morality, politics and spirituality as superior and normative.
Such people then judge other people and other cultures by their own culture. People from the other cultures do the same in return. The results are aptly called culture clashes, and they lead to culture wars.
Division literally means two visions, and these two visions are the cause of the ensuing division on most every cultural issue. Culture wars are what happens when two visions collide and political, moral, spiritual – and sometimes even real – war is waged, with the winning culture ruling over the other. Of course, this state continues until the next subculture or counterculture rises to dethrone the majority culture.
Think of it as the kids’ game, “King of the Hill,” played by adults who fight to get their way with legal maneuvering, personal threatening, public attacking, and private deal-making.
Thankfully, there is another option. Our King got murdered by a mob when He brought Kingdom culture to the earth and offended all other cultures by the simple act of declaring Himself King of every hill.
The Bible tells us that history has a destination and it is moving toward the Lord Jesus, who is returning to the earth to be our forever King of the Hill.
For the Christian, our goal should be to live Kingdom down and not culture up. Our goal should be to seek the values, character and culture of our eternal home in Heaven and bring those to bear in our cultures and subcultures. This happens by focusing on the character of Christ, and living under the authority of the Bible. Until the King shows up again, we should not expect the culture to feel like home for one simple fact – it isn’t.
Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the author of “Spirit-Filled Jesus: Live by His Power.”
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