Which way to the high place?
Cultural relevancy is not akin to gospel contextualization… here is what I mean. It is one thing to know about a culture, it is another thing to embrace a culture so as to appeal to that culture. “Look at me, I am a Christian who can relate. I am just like you, so listen to me tell you about the gospel. I love what you love, do what you do, and in every way am similar to you. Therefore, as someone you can identify with, let me tell you why the gospel is relevant, because I am relevant.” This approach often communicates falsehood to the unbeliever. In this approach, effectiveness is determined by the ability of the gospel witness to be relevant, instead of the power of God to save, through that gospel.
It has been said that everyone worships something or someone. If worship can loosely be defined as devotion to someone or something by investing the majority of one’s time, money, energy, emotion, and focus, then I suppose that statement finds truth in every life. Therefore, there are things or people within a certain cultural context that people worship, and these things would be other than the Lord God. Why would worshipers of God try to communicate exclusive Gospel worship by diving headfirst into what the culture worships? The antelope will not take advice from a lion on what’s good to eat just because they live in the same natural habitat. This is not to say it is wrong to enjoy certain things in a culture. All good and perfect things are from above and some of what God created good still exists to be enjoyed as good from God (Gen. 1:31; James 1:17; 1 Tim. 4:4). But is there a line to be drawn?
This has come to mind due to the amazing amount of social media activity, from the people of God, that surrounds things idolized in a particular culture. Where is the activity and zeal surrounding gospel proclamation, witness, testimony or a retelling of what God has done or is doing? We should be drawing people by the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15-16) instead of being seduced by the appeal of cultural idols.
In ancient times, many civilizations used geographical high places to set up shrines to the gods or idols they worshiped. This practice was one that Israel used early on before Solomon was tasked with building the temple. Sadly, even after the temple of the Lord God was built, Israel had drifted into idol worship by serving the idols in the high places. They had been warned not to have any other Gods before YHWH (Ex. 20:3). They were to prevent their land from disobeying this command by removing the high places from it (Num. 33:52). Failure to do so would solicit punishment from God, by bringing His wrath down on the high places and those who served them (Lev. 26:30). Let me be clear, today the land of God is the people of God, the church, not the USA. Israel’s testimony to the goodness and worthiness of the Lord God was to be unstained by any sort of idol worship. By their devotion to the Lord, and obedience to His way, the nations would recognize that the Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, was in their midst. Purity, goodness, charity, and holiness were to be seen in His people as a display of who God is. The strategy has changed in recent history. No longer is it sufficient to trust and obey the express commands of God, knowing He will call and save through gospel life and witness. Today, we hope more in the ability to be soul winners by relevancy, than by gospel blatancy. Be clear about the most amazing news to ever hit the world, without giving cultural idols the high places in your life.