At one time, living in America meant growing up with a Judeo-Christian culture whether a person was a Christian or not. Now, that is not the case. And it certainly is not the case in other cultures around the world. However, as Christians, we need to learn and adopt the Biblical Culture. As missionaries we are always concerned about what we teach. We want to help each new Christian become a strong, growing disciple of Christ, living life in obedience to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. That is what living a biblical culture is all about. When we share Christ with others, we aren’t trying to teach them to live the American culture or adopt the American way of life. We also don’t want them to continue living according to a secular culture that does not put God at the center of life. So, whether we are Christians in Middle America, missionaries teaching in the jungles of Asia, or a young Christian learning what the Bible really says, we all need to adopt and live the Biblical Culture to which God calls us.
We want to help each new Christian become a strong, growing disciple of Christ, living life in obedience to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. That is what living a biblical culture is all about.
When we were on the mission field, I thought through this a lot. What does living a Biblical culture look like? What parts of the local culture does a person need to give up to stay faithful to Biblical teachings? Now that we are back in the US, I’m thinking these same things. Our culture is no longer “Christian” and does not hold to Christian values. So, what does that mean? That means, at times, we will seem strange to those around us, and sometimes we will be rejected and ridiculed for our faith. In the King James Bible Jesus says we are a peculiar people (Exodus 19:5). I hope we will only be seen as peculiar, but today some see us as hate-filled and judgmental. It’s not easy to live out our faith in a culture that has turned against it.
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (2 Corinthians 1:18, NLT)
“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT)
As I prayed through what living a biblical culture means I came up with two main guidelines that are the most important values and commands we are given:
1. Live with the Word of God as our authority.
2. Follow the greatest commandment to Love the Lord with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves:
Love the Lord you God with all your heart – put all our emotions, fears, personal feelings in the hands of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our life. This means that when we want to fight for our rights, our ways, we first must check that our hearts are following God and that He has called us to that fight. I don’t see Jesus or others in the Bible fighting for their rights. They reasoned peacefully with others and shared the Truth with all people from the beggar on the street to the highest authorities in the land. We see Jesus standing up for those who are oppressed like the woman caught in adultery, but not with anger and judgment but with love and patience. Every instance of godly confrontation is done with love and a desire for reconciliation.
What do we do when we open up conversations, but we cannot come to a point of agreement? What do we do when our rights are infringed upon? What do we do when we’re accused of infringing upon others’ rights? Our emotions and fears want to dictate our response. But if we love the Lord with all our hearts, that means we rely on Him to help us handle our emotions, and sometimes that is uncomfortable and painful.
The Bible tells us to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, to turn the other cheek. Not easy things to do.
Love the Lord your God with all your soul – we are new creations, born again to follow Christ. We are living sacrifices living for Christ and His plan. We seek to live like Philippians 1:21: for to me to live is Christ; to die is gain.
I don’t know about you, but that verse kind of challenges me (putting it mildly). I want to say I’m there, and I hope I am, but I’m not always sure. I want my life to be one lived for Christ. I want to know that others see Christ in me. But I know I’m human. I know I fail. I know I make really dumb mistakes and say really dumb things. But God is rich in mercy, and He has chosen to make Himself known through us.
Love the Lord your God with all your mind – Learning to take every thought captive and bringing it under the authority of Christ and His word, we seek to guard our minds, keeping our thoughts pure and focused on what is true, noble, and good. So many times, our thoughts are what can cause us to stumble in our walk with Christ. We get angry and rehearse what we wish we could say to someone which can lead to bitterness and unforgiveness. Or we let something bother us and keep thinking about it until our thoughts begin to spiral our lives into fear, depression, or hopelessness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often think about my mind when I think of living the Christian life, yet Jesus made it clear that it is at the center of many of our difficulties as humans. When we don’t control our thoughts, Jesus said thinking about or lusting after a person in one’s mind was the same as committing adultery. We can even puff ourselves up with pride and false superiority by gaining knowledge and taking pride in that knowledge. Education is a gift but should never become an idol.
Love the Lord with all your strength – When I think of living a biblical culture and loving God with all my strength, I think of priorities. If God is my priority, my time and energy will be spent on the things of God. I will recognize that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and choose to live a life where I honor God with my body and the choice I make regarding it and where I build up strength in my body so I can do whatever God calls me to do.
And love your neighbor as yourself – Finally, living a biblical culture within another culture requires me to build relationships. The core of those interactions must be love and encouragement. That doesn’t mean bowing to the ideas and unlawfulness of a corrupt government and placing politics on the altar of our churches (or sometimes sacrificing our churches on the altar of politics). The Bible is clear that the world will know we are followers of Christ because of our love for each other.
Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, AMP)
Every other verse or guideline I could think of grows out of these two principles: God’s word is our authority and Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.
If we weigh our choices and our family cultures that we’re building against these two principles, I think we can live a biblical culture that can glorify God and make His name known among the people. And I pray with all that I am that those around us would see Him and be drawn to His love for them.
Books for Kids:
I want to recommend some books for your kids about making choices to live as a person after God’s own heart. Elizabeth George and Jim George have some books for tweens that are workbook/Bible study books helping kids think through choices they make each day, preparing them for the big choices they will be making.
For your younger children, this cute book by John Ortberg is about choosing.