|Volume 25 Number 9 September 2023
As a whole, diverse cultures are good. From observing the created world around us, it is evident that the Creator likes variety. He intended for mankind to spread all over the globe (Genesis 9:1), and He knew that they would eventually have their own separate manners and culture. Indeed, when men disobeyed God’s command to fill the earth, the Lord made the different languages to confuse them and scatter them (Genesis 11). Surely, the various languages influenced the people groups even more to develop their own distinct civilizations. Today, studying different cultures is interesting and can enrich our lives as we learn how others view certain perspectives. However, there are many areas of our cultures that, as Christians, we must ask ourselves where do we stand on these issues?
Christianity has always been countercultural. Christ came in human flesh at a time when Rome ruled the known world. Most people proclaimed Caesar as lord. First-century Christians proclaiming that Jesus is Lord clashed with their counterparts in all aspects of life, and it is no different today. Or, is it? I fear many Christians love the world and the things here more than the Lord Who they claim is their Master (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4). Many of us are looking at self (or others like us) – seeing a reflection of ourselves and our own self-imposed, worldly standards instead of looking to God’s Word – the Standard – to see what we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a great outline of how a follower of Christ lives in opposition to worldly cultures. Let’s examine some key points of this beautiful message.
Our Relationship With God
Matthew 5:3-12 records the beginning of the Lord’s lecture with the well-known Beatitudes. God has the authority to give commands to His creation. He made mankind with free-will, and God allows us to choose whether or not to serve Him. God has mercifully and lovingly given us all that we need to come to Him (2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3). Briefly here, the Lord summarized those qualities of being found in favor with God. The culture screams, “be you,” “be your own boss,” “follow your heart,” etc. Our Creator wants us to submit to and follow Him by recognizing that we totally depend upon Him (poor in spirit), mourning for our sins that have separated us from Him, humbly submitting to what He has said as we continually hunger and thirst for righteousness, leading us to live pure lives and sharing the good news with others (being merciful peacemakers). The fact is that we have all declared our loyalty to someone or something. For many in the world, that service is to self. For Christians, Christ is our King, and we cannot love anything or anyone more than Him (James 3:4-10; 1 John 2:15-17).
Our Relationship With Others
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12 NKJV). The Golden Rule, that we all fail to uphold from time to time, sums up true love. The world has a different definition of love – one based upon feelings instead of what is best for another. Christ exposed the heart of the matter: anger (Matthew 5:21-26), lust (Matthew 5:27-32) and lying (Matthew 5:33-37). If we are truly following Him, we will “love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). When the culture declares, “revenge on those who have wronged us,” “do what makes you happy,” or “dog eat dog power struggle for the top,” Christ’s followers ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:38-42), “love for enemies… and pray” for them (Matthew 5:43-48), forgive those who repent (Matthew 6:14-15), and take the speck out of a brother’s eye (after we have removed the plank from our own, Matthew 7:1-5). How wonderful our relationships with our spouses, coworkers, etc. would be if everyone applied the Lord’s teachings!
Our Lifestyle of Holiness
In short, the Christian’s life is one of little concern for man’s culture around us but rather for the will of God. Our attitudes, manifested in our lifestyles, are different from that of the world’s (Matthew 5:10-16; 6:1-8, 16-34). The Lord concluded His sermon with the sobering comparison of the fool to the wise man (Matthew 7:24-27). What distinguishes the two? The difference is whether or not we are doers of His Word (Matthew 7:21-23). “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).