We hear a lot these days about civil rights, political correctness, and tolerance. We live in a ‘give me’ society. The culture of today is built on humanistic entitlement philosophies. However, God is completely the opposite. He is a counter-culture God. When we consider what the world says and compare it to what God says, we find that the two are complete polar opposites.
Culture says: Be First / God says: The last will be first and the first will be last. The culture will tell you to do everything you can to position yourself at the top. Strive to be first. We see this everywhere from climbing the cooperate ladder to being the first to be served at the restaurant. We live in a faced-paced me-centered society. However, this is not what Jesus believed. Instead of saying ‘be first’, Jesus said in Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first and the first last.” This is certainly a refreshing concept compared to what we are constantly bombarded with in today’s world.
Culture says: Step over others to exalt yourself / God says: Humble yourself. I am amazed at how people will tear each other down in order to exalt themselves. This is seen more visibly during an election year. Politicians will say and do anything in order to make their opponent look bad. The purpose for such action is so that they may be able to exalt themselves and make themselves look better. Unfortunately, we see such behavior in everyday life. We even see it in the church. Often times, those who have a critical spirit and are constantly condemning and judging others are individuals who have a low self-esteem and they feel as if they must make others look bad in order to make themselves look better. However, this behavior is completely opposite of how God intends for us to live. Matthew 23:12 says, “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” First Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Being humble does not come easy. It is something that we must consciously work on every day. Humility may take on many different forms such as: listening more than talking, not retaliating, not being defensive, being kind to those who are living lifestyles that we oppose, doing tasks that no one else really cares to do, etc. The point is that we should not try to exalt ourselves at the expense of others. Instead, we should humble ourselves and have a servant’s heart.
Culture says: Do whatever makes you look best / God says: Take the worst instead of the best. We all want to better ourselves. Even as a pastor, like everyone else, I desire to be ‘promoted’ and have greater opportunities in the ministry. This desire to better ourselves can be healthy. However, there is a fine line between such desire and the sins of pride and selfishness. The world tells us to go to whatever extremes as possible to make yourself look good. It’s all about perception. It’s all about what people think about us. We will go to great lengths such as changing the way we look to giving a false impression on social media just to make ourselves look good. However, this is certainly not God’s way. As a matter of fact, God’s way seems to be on the complete opposite extreme. Notice what the Bible says in Luke 14:8-10. “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou are bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, friend, go up higher: then thou shalt have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” The principle that I believe Jesus is teaching us here is that we should not try to promote ourselves. Instead, we should leave any promotion up to others and God. It is better to start low and be promoted than to start high and be demoted.
Culture says: Your life is what’s most important / God says: Consider others better than yourself. I am amazed at the great lengths that advertisers will go to in order to draw us in and hook us so that we will purchase their product. In most all advertising the focus is usually on self. We are told that if we just had this new car we would be happier. If we just drink this beverage then we will have loads of energy and lots of fun. If we just buy this exercise machine or go on this diet we will look like the people displayed in the ads. We are told that we deserve to treat ourselves to pleasure. The focus again is on ourselves. The world tells us that we are more important than anyone else. We are told that we should take care of ourselves and what we want first before we consider others. God, however, has a completely different view. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Wow! This is completely opposite of what today’s culture preaches. The Bible teaches that we should care more about the wellbeing of others than we do about ourselves. I wonder what kind of place this world would be if the majority of people lived for the wellbeing of others rather than for themselves. The world would certainly be a much more peaceful place that’s for sure.
Culture says: Always get and do what you want / God says: Die to your own desires. The world tells us to do what feels good and makes us happy. The problem with such a lifestyle is that life becomes a continual pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. True fulfilment is not found in what makes us happy. However, true fulfillment is found in sacrifice. Consider what Jesus said in Luke 9:23. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Denying self is a fundamental principle of the Christian faith. In order to receive salvation one must surrender him or herself to Jesus. In order to follow Jesus one must die to their own fleshly desires and do only what God desires for them to do. This does mean that Christians cannot have fun and enjoy life. To deny yourself is to deny yourself of sin in order to follow Jesus. However, the world tells us that we should do whatever we want even if it is sinful. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to God’s will for our lives.
Culture says: Maybe forgive but never forget / God says: Love and pray for your enemies. In today’s culture we seem to practice the idea of an eye for an eye. If you hurt me then I will hurt you back. I may tell you that I forgive you for some wrong you did, but I always remember it and I will remind you of it when it is in my best interest to do so. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Instead of seeking revenge and retaliating against those who do us wrong, we should pray for those who hurt us. This is hard for us to swallow. Are we to love and pray for those who misrepresent us? Yes. Are we to love and pray for those who lie about us? Yes. Are we to love and pray for the terrorist that seeks to destroy all believers in Christ? Yes. Think about the love that God has for you. He forgives you over and over again and never holds your wrongs against you if you have trusted in Jesus for your salvation. Shouldn’t we share that same love and forgiveness with others?
Culture says: Have nothing to do with those who are against you / God says: Bless those who persecute you. Imagine an Islamic extremist comes into your place of business and brutally beats you. After your recovery, you give your attacker a gift and invite them to come to your house for dinner. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? Yet, the Bible says in Romans 12:14, “Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not.” As Christians, we have a responsibility to give grace to those who are against us. Most of the time we will simply ignore and stay away from those that oppose us. However, the Bible seems to teach that we are to pursue those that oppose us and bless them in ways that will open their hearts to the love of Jesus.
Culture says: No one tells you what to do / God says: Go further than what is asked of you. We live in a very stubborn culture. No one wants to be told what to do or how they should live. This is seen in the way people respond to the laws of the land all the way to the preacher in the pulpit who instructs people in what they should do or not do. Matthew 5:41 says, “Whoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” The principle here is that we should go above and beyond what is expected of us. There is something special about those individuals who do that little extra thing above what is asked of them.
We serve a counter-culture God who desires that we live a counter-culture life. Examine your life today and ask yourself if you are just going with the flow of today’s culture or are you living the kind of life that God would be please with, a life that is counter-culture.