“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.”
I am an expert at cultural assimilation. For the vast majority of my life I have enjoyed spending time with all sorts of people and learning and absorbing different aspects of their culture. In an effort to maintain my sanity and defend my cultural acceptability, I hide behind Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians claiming, “I have become all things to all people,” in an effort to spread the gospel. I absolutely believe that Christians have a responsibility to engage with their culture, but more often than not, my explorations into culture are for my own enjoyment and not the spread of the gospel. I cease to act and think like I am part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession,” and I search for my fulfillment and belonging in societal normality rather than the family of God. How often have you graded your life or even just your day based on the standards of our culture rather than the standards of God? How would our culture define a bad day and how should a Christian define it differently?
As Christians, we should look to the future with different expectations and goals than the rest of our culture. In answering the question, “what would make the next 12 months a successful year?” we must think according to the bigger picture of God’s kingdom rather than our own individual kingdoms. If we are following the pattern Jesus laid for us, we are not here to be served, but to serve others. This may sound daunting and exhausting, because it absolutely is. Just like many New Year’s resolutions, we do not have the willpower to force ourselves to serve others or think in terms of God’s kingdom constantly. We must be driven back to the reality that we are a part of a family that is much greater than we assent to in our daily lives. When we try live apart from the community of believers God has called us to, we fail miserably and are burnt out and our solution is to retreat deeper into ourselves and “take time off” from community because we are so tired. Instead of swearing off community, God calls us to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus,” because we are surrounded by a great community of believers specifically given to us by our Creator who knows all of our needs. Where are you fleeing from community when you should be taking refuge in God’s provision of people in your life?