Derek Webb sings,
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law (from “A New Law”)
This tends to be how the average Christian implicitly lives. Not many of us would say it aloud but we live this way. If it’s a “Christian” band then it’s good. If it’s rated “G” then it’s good. If it’s rated “R” then it’s bad. If it’s “secular” then it’s bad. We have created a new law to replace the one that Jesus freed us from. We have done so because we don’t want to learn “how to live like a free man”.
To be sure this is not a recent development. Paul was dealing with it in the first generation of Christians. In Galatians 5 he writes,
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
Paul then goes on to exonerate the Galatians for accepting circumcision and submitting to a yoke of legalism. We do the same. Only we are most often guilty of doing so in the realm of pop culture and personal agendas. There is a balance, however, so Paul gives the following warning,
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:13–15 ESV)
Paul then discusses the role of the Spirit in our sanctification and restoration. We must not miss what Paul is talking about here. What he is saying is that we must learn through the tutoring of the Holy Spirit what it means to live free. He is calling the people of God to learn character and virtue. He desires them to come to adulthood and maturity in the faith.
Consider how we raise our children. When they are babies and young children we give them direct orders. We tell them what to do and we expect them to do it. As they get older we begin to give them reasons and try to help them learn why we desire them to do these things.
Why do we do this? Because we want them to become adults who can reason and discern the world around them.
Unless it comes to music.
Unless it comes to film.
Unless it comes to politics.
Then we teach them to read the label and the follow the “law”.
I have heard it said, “not every Christian is ‘called’ to engage culture.” Really? Here is the definition of culture, “An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.” If we live around other human beings then we must engage culture, it is that simple.
Jesus sent his disciples into the world. His desire was that they would be holy (check out this post about holiness). This holiness was not a self-righteous piety but being set apart for the mission of God. To be on God’s mission necessarily means that we must engage culture.
We must do so critically.
We must do so with eyes wide open.
We must do with discernment and wisdom.
So, how do we that? That’s the subject we’ll tackle next…
Here is Derek Webb’s video for “A New Law” for your enjoyment: