If American culture continues along the path of exchanging the truth of God for lies, believers will encounter more people who reject what God has revealed about fundamental matters. A faithful Christian will never agree, for example, that a man has no responsibility to act in a masculine way, but instead he can look, act, and dress like, perform as, or play the role of a woman if he chooses. Those who don’t acknowledge God’s design and revelation, however, will continue to insist that Christians be more “tolerant” of such choices. They may insist on a “nuanced” treatment of an issue, or fault believers for being so “extreme.”
Reading what God says in Scripture and observing how he designed the world makes the Christian position on many things clear. What we experience, though, is an opposing pressure to treat as uncertain what God has clearly prescribed. There is real pressure to repeat the culturally accepted story. Even more strangely, professing believers with Bible background adopt opinions on cultural issues that don’t make biblical sense, but instead seem to be influenced by culture more than the Bible.
Here are a few reasons behind this pressure to be nuanced.
One reason is that culturally relevant matters always come with enormous pressure. Consider the account of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14. They arrived in Lystra, a city influenced by religious paganism. The small group of Christians. didn’t attract much attention until Paul healed a man who was crippled from birth. Those who saw what happened concluded that “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men” (v. 11). In a short period of time the crowd became a religiously frenzied mob, sacrificial animals and all. Paul and Barnabas tried to reason with the people to stop the proceedings, and barely escaped becoming the focus of a pagan religious ceremony.
How easy would it have been for Paul and his companions to go along with the ceremony, rationalizing it with promises of using their newfound notoriety to preach the gospel later? At the very least, it was very difficult for Paul to stand against the enormous cultural pressure of the moment and try to push the social momentum back toward truth. Anyone who has experience being the lone voice will understand.
Much easier than speaking out on a hot-button topic as it unfolds is simply agreeing with the consensus of history on an issue. For example, It takes very little “courage” to try to harmonize sodomy and Scripture while a vocal portion of American culture applauds it. It also requires neither wisdom nor bravery to take a position on the issue of slavery before the Civil War; the events are 150 years removed and there is little social risk. Some may insist that, had they lived in the antebellum South or pre-war Germany, they would have been bold. However, the real test is not making an accurate judgment about the past, but responding biblically in the present. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day deceived themselves when they insisted that “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets” (Matthew 23:30). They had the benefit of hindsight in making the obviously correct decision, so they thought they were wise. Their wickedness was revealed not in their being “on the right side of history,” but in their hypocrisy of revering the prophets while simultaneously rejecting and plotting against the Son of God who lived among them.
Another reason behind the pressure to be nuanced is that our personal investment in the practical concerns of life complicates matters. We see this again in how people responded to Jesus Christ when he was on the earth. Many with dim spiritual eyes could not see Jesus clearly because other factors obscured their sight. Some were preoccupied with the desire for a king. Some, like the Pharisees, were jealous of their political and cultural influence. Others were so enthusiastic over a man who worked miracles and gave away food that they looked no further.
Taking a Bible stand on a current cultural issue is potentially complicated by any of a long list of practical concerns: keeping a job, family harmony, building community connections, maintaining accumulated retirement, preserving entertainment options, and others. It is easy for believers to mute their biblical conviction for the sake of convenience or even a temporary good. How much more reluctant are the lost, who don’t believe the objectively true word of God, to lose social capital over the truth?
Another reason for pressure in cultural issues is that individual people must live them out. Positions on hot-button topics are held by people we interact with daily, like neighbors, coworkers, relatives, and fellow church members. Sin is always committed by individual people. It is not difficult to state an opinion or denounce a sin in the abstract; it’s much more difficult to maintain that opinion, or to state a biblical conviction, when it tangibly affects a relationship with another person who responds to us based on what we believe. It is easier to get along with people when we stay silent and “tolerate” what they believe instead of speaking truth. Compassion for people is biblical, but compromise of what God says is not.
Another reason believers feel the pressure of nuance is that we may not understand God’s Word well enough to confidently discern the issue. According to Hebrews 5:11-14, mature believers, who have practiced applying Scripture, “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). If we spend time in God’s Word, we will recognize cultural issues for what they are and discern past the complicating factors to make wise decisions despite the world’s pressure. Immature believers, “unskillful in the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13), are not prepared to apply God’s Word in areas that require wisdom.
The ultimate reason for the cultural pressure to take positions that contradict Scripture and God’s design is that the people who hold unbiblical opinions are spiritually blind and unable to see the truth. Part of the devil’s influence is that he has “blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The farther from truth a person and collectively a culture moves, the more influence darkness has over their thinking, and the less obvious God’s established principles are.
We who understand and believe the gospel and that God has spoken in Scripture have a responsibility to discern the issues of the day. The cultural pressure to support lies will not abate without the people who believe the lies converting to Christ. We should face the issues of the moment with eyes open, and follow the leading of God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and the opportunities we are given to speak the truth, resisting the pressure to be nuanced while showing concern for those who oppose God and themselves, “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
The above article was written by Jonathan Kyser. He is a pastoral assistant of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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