Life in the Counter Culture


This article, apart from minor revisions, first appeared in my church’s weekly a year or so ago.

In a country founded on biblical principles, it’s easy to forget that Christianity is counter-cultural. A close look at American society, though, shows that our current culture, the church included, reflects Mankind’s sinful nature more than it does our biblical underpinnings. Here’s a case in point.

Some time ago a friend of mine was put into a situation all parents dread. One of her children was caught doing something offensive to another child. Really wrong. Sinful.

The guilty child was remorseful and did not balk at the resulting discipline. In addition the offender wrote a letter of apology to the offended young person. That same day, upon receiving the letter, the offended called to say, I forgive you.

At this point, we might all smile and say, This is the way discipline is supposed to work. Except there is more story. A follow-up phone call came to my friend from one of the offended’s parents saying their child did not have permission to forgive.

And sure enough, contact between the two families dwindled to little more than polite and somewhat frosty greetings in church Sunday mornings.

Eventually the church leadership laid out a process designed to bring about reconciliation, but in subsequent meetings the offended’s parents and their now unforgiving child made it clear they had no intention of extending mercy to the repentant and disciplined offender. Soon after, the offended’s family left the church.

This sad story brings to my mind the parable Jesus told about the unforgiving servant who himself had experienced his master’s forgiveness. “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have mercy on your fellow slave in the same way that I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18:32-33)

The point is clear—my forgiveness of those who sin against me needs to look like God’s forgiveness of me. But how counter-cultural is that?

Our Rambo-esque society says, Don’t get even, get revenge.

Jesus spelled out how He wants His followers to handle mistreatment: “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matthew 5:40).

But … but … but … that’s no way to run a business, we say. Or, You can’t have people just walking all over you.

In coming to such conclusions, we’re thinking like our culture. We’ve forgotten who God is, that He is the judge, that we are not. We’ve forgotten He is the One who claims vengeance and tells us to forgo the same. We’ve forgotten He forgives us and tells us to go and do likewise.

Such thinking is so different from the way the rest of society operates. How counter-cultural!

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 11:39 am  Comments (5)  
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