A lot of younger guys seem to be combing their hair straight up at odd angles these days. So I decided to try that once just after I had gotten out of the shower. After a quick look in the mirror, I decided, “Hmmmm… Nope! Don’t think so!… This is really just not me!” And I quickly re-combed it.. back the same way I have combed it for the last 40+ years. What do you think God thought of that little episode? I’m guessing He was a bit amused.
If you ask a lot of people my age (63 now) “What do you see in your mind’s eye when you picture a typical Christian?” A lot of us old guys would see a picture of a clean cut American who lived about 50 years ago. (Hair reasonably short and combed neatly and naturally close to his head!)
Unfortunately, that kind of stereotypical thinking can cause big problems.
You see, if we are not on the alert, we will allow things to really bother us that really shouldn’t bother us at all. Of course, I’m talking about things that are definitely not 1950-ish!
I’m talking about things like, well, hair combed straight up! or weird hair colors! or tattoos! or weird dress styles! or weird (to our ears) music!
This would all be kind of funny and worth some laughs… if it weren’t for the fact that quite a few of us older folks really seem to be seriously getting cultural preferences confused with Biblical principles.
It’s almost as if we had the attitude, “You need to come to Christ… and start combing your hair right! And while your at it, you need to get that tattoo removed. And trade that raucous new Christian music you are listening to for something a bit tamer. (Here, try this George Beverly Shea album.) And ditch those clothes and start dressing like a sane person! And tuck your shirttail in!”
Now let me balance that quickly. There really are many who are living in a sinful lifestyle who have used their hair, their clothing, their tattoos, and their music as symbols of rebellion. For them, it may well be that they need to make some radical changes in these things in order to make the necessary radical break from a past lifestyle that is sinful. And, of course, there really is some secular music out there (not to mention tattoos!) that does blatantly dishonor our God and Savior.
But we need to understand and accept that there are people out there whose culture is very different from our own, and who are not necessarily dishonoring Christ by those differences!
For those of us stuck in the past, we may have a much worse problem! There are actual worship services going on all around the country that are downright shocking! Many of us would have a hard time believing that God could possibly be pleased with them. The preacher doesn’t even have on a coat and tie! And he’s wearing blue jeans! And his shirttail’s not tucked in! He’s not even standing behind a massive pulpit! The music sounds foreign to my ears! The worshippers seem to be getting a bit too rowdy! The order of service is all messed up!
There is some really wonderful, Christ honoring, powerful music out there that some of us older geezers would say, “That has no place in a worship service!” Why? Is it because we assume that God’s tastes have to coincide with our tastes? That’s really bad (not to say stupid) thinking! We’d better get over that kind of foolish thinking right now!
Are you with me here yet?
There is a huge difference between getting worked up because our culture and our preferences and our traditions are being violated on the one hand… and getting worked up because God’s Word is being violated on the other!
We must vigorously resist the tendency many of us have to confuse our cultural preferences with Biblical truth!
There are people worshiping God all over the world (perhaps including our own neighborhoods) in ways that prove that these people are totally oblivious to our traditions, but, at the same time, in ways that make God very happy!
And frankly, in my humble opinion, there are many so-called worship services that fit our traditions beautifully. But I am afraid they are nauseating to God. (I’m talking, for example, about churches that say all the right things with their mouths, but refuse to take courageous stands against real sin out of fear of offending significant donors. I’m talking about churches where people are manipulated down the aisle so we can keep our numbers looking good. I’m talking about churches where the service is designed to make us feel good without challenging us to repent of sin obey Christ. I’m talking about churches where people gripe because the worship goes on longer than usual. I’m talking about churches that are fearful of obeying God regarding discipline and accountability because some would leave. And, of course, I’m talking about churches who are unwilling to make changes that might draw people who are not like us.)
But we must remember that people totally committed to our Lord Jesus Christ, can express their genuine love for Jesus in many different ways.
Am I saying that an “anything goes” attitude is Ok? Nope, not at all. In fact, Paul had to deal pretty firmly with an “anything goes” attitude in the church at Corinth.
I’m just saying, we need to develop some discernment. (Did you read the discernment post?) And we must resist the tendency to assume our preferences are identified with God’s preferences! We must have the humility to accept that often they are not the same!
Many non-christian people have assumed that they were not interested in Christ, because of Christians (at least so-called Christians) who have demonstrated a judgmental attitude toward their cultural preferences.
It’s one thing to have God’s attitude about sin. He hates it and so should we. Sin destroys. It’s quite another to have a (sinful!) Pharisaical attitude toward others just because they are different!
This can get confusing unless we learn to think Biblically! We live in a society that wants to redefine sin to be non-sin and merely a matter of cultural differences. Obviously we must never become so culturally relevant that we call non-sin what God calls sin.
But we all need to work a little harder to make sure that people don’t reject Christ because of our bad attitudes about their non-sinful cultural differences!
If they reject Him because they don’t like His claims on their lives, then let them reject us too!
Our goal should be that we would be so Christ-like that all who would love Him will be drawn to Him by our lives and words! And all who would reject Him (not just caricatures of Him!) would reject us too!
And that has nothing to do with cultural differences!
Stay in the real battle!