Q&A : What should be our stance as believers to the culture around us?

A biblically informed mind would know that behavioural problems, whether of an individual or a society, are really symptoms of deeper issues. Thus we should avoid going after surface-level solutions. It is proposed that our stance should contain the following pillars :

1. Our Perception : We should view the culture through the eyes of the gospel. Every culture has certain prized idols which it labels as its values. Members of that culture do what they do because they prize these idols. Their actions make sense only when these idols are identified. Thus we should exegete the culture and understand what those particular idols are which causes people to act in a certain way. The Indian culture is one which prizes honour and thus culturally, what Indians do are to a great extent sensible only in the context of this idol of honour. We should thus rightly perceive the problem we are facing. We should not only know what is happening in our culture, but why our culture is behaving so.

2. Our Preaching: Once we have identified the particular idols of our culture, we should preach the gospel sensitively to demolish those idols. Wise contextualization to our culture should characterize our preaching. The matter of our preaching cannot and should not be changing. It is always the biblical gospel. However the manner in which we preach ought to be sensitive to our culture. The way we land the gospel into the hearts of our hearers should be informed by our perception of the dominant idols of their culture. If their culture values honour, then we should labour to show how the culture’s prescription to gain honour, only gives them false honour while gaining of true honour and avoidance of true shame comes only through the gospel. All the cultures in the world can be categorized as either shame based or guilt based or fear based. We should note that shame, guilt and fear are all effects of sin and what people of each of these cultures yearn for – honour, righteousness and peace – are good longings. However the culture lies to them about the way these can be attained. We should expose these lies and show how these longings are only satisfactorily fulfilled by the gospel. This is what is meant by wise contextualization in our preaching.

3. Our Philanthropy: Along with our wise and sensitive preaching informed by our proper perception of the culture, we should also actively engage in positive works of philanthropy. We should be eager to do all we can to meet the needs of the people, especially the poor, the down trodden, the marginalized and the abused. Sacrificial ministries of mercy and justice, conducted in a spirit of grace would be a graphic representation of the gospel to our people. Evangelism and social justice need not be seen as two entirely different works of the church. The church is committed to alleviating human suffering both eternal and earthly, while evangelism focuses on the former, justice and mercy ministries focus on the latter. Thus this pillar is equally important to our stance as the others.

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