Three Cultural Values That are Suffocating Your Faith and You Don’t Even Know It.

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Christians and Culture
Tags: , , , , , ,

Faith in Jesus is a living, breathing thing. Like all living things when healthy it grows and even reproduces. As long as it receives the proper nourishment and right environment it can flourish. But if we cut back on the nourishment or the environment becomes toxic, sickness and even death can result. The scriptures speak often of the difference between the things of this world and the things of God. For the follower of Christ our citizenship is in heaven but we currently live in this world as something akin to aliens and sojourners. We are to some degree living in an environment that by its very nature threatens the health of our faith.

The environmental issues that most threaten the health of Christianity in America are not the things that we Christians typically focus on, you know the lists of various sins du jour that come under scrutiny. There was a time when many preachers focused on three “big” sins of sex, drugs, and rock n roll as the cause of the coming downfall of the American Church. Sex, (whether of the homosexual or heterosexual variety), drugs even legalized marijuana, and certainly rock n roll will not be the death of Christianity in America. Rather there is a different big three that are far more insidious and dangerous. I am convinced that the American obsession with safety, comfort and security are slowing sucking the life’s breath out of Christianity in our country because Christians have unwittingly and uncritically been breathing the toxic air of an environment in which those three values subtly influence nearly every decision we make.

The illustration of a frog in a kettle of water has been used often, even being the title of a widely read book on church growth and transformation in the 80’s. The idea being that if you put a frog in a kettle of water that is extremely hot the frog will immediately jump out and save its life. But if you put the frog in water that is a comfortable temperature and will stay there even as you slowly raise the temperature to boiling and kill the frog. Christians in America are the frog in the cultural kettle. Over time the culture values of safety, comfort and security have become more and more the guiding values and as that has increased, we have not even noticed the life threatening change. Or maybe to stay with the analogy of air, many people have slowly succumbed to the toxic poisoning of carbon monoxide without even realizing they were breathing in their very death. In either case the point is, our cultural values of safety, comfort and security are killing our faith and witness and in a shocking irony we are embracing those values as being prudent, wise and even biblical.

Let’s talk about the first of those, safety. We have become obsessed with safety to the point that products have warning labels that go to the extreme of telling you not to use your electric hair dryer while sitting in the bathtub full of water. Children are not allowed to ride their big wheels unless they are wearing OSHA approved helmets and are in the basement where the walls are covered with protective foam and the floors are rubber. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we should be reckless and there are real risks to life and limb in the world. But it seems to me that we have progressed, or may regressed to the point where anything that has the slightest potential what-so-ever to have a bit of danger in it is immediately off-limits. I contend that in our efforts to insulate ourselves from any pain, hardship or disaster we have in fact insulated ourselves from life in the process.

So how has this impacted the church? I have three sons, the second of whom spent a year in Egypt. It wasn’t just any year. It was the year of the revolution. He arrived in Cairo just a few weeks after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president. During the year my son was there protests and violent clashes were still a fact of life. Tahrir Square was at times a battle ground and people died. On more occasions than I can count people asked my wife and I if we were worried about his safety. Our answer was always the same and it was heartfelt and fully believed. Our son was convinced that God wanted him to be in Egypt serving others during that year. With that as our foundation we were certain that the safest place for him to be was Cairo, Egypt. Our home in Orlando would not have been safe, at least not in ways that really matter. His year in Egypt was a year of amazing growth and life for him. Was it risky on a physical level, sure. Would Orlando have been less a physical risk, maybe, maybe not. But it certainly would have been a greater risk to his faith and relationship with Jesus. Only by stepping into the risky place where God had called him for that year could he have experienced the things that so deeply impacted his relationship with Jesus and his view of the world.

Here is the point. Jesus never promised us safety. Instead he promised us life, life abundant which is a far better deal than mere safety. Jesus said in John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”. He promised us life to the fullest which only comes in a healthy, living, breathing relationship with Him. That means sometimes going places and doing things that seem risky to a world obsessed with safety. Oh and the other thing Jesus promised is that we would face danger and even suffer. In Matthew 10:16 he warned his followers that he was sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves. That usually doesn’t turn out well for some of the sheep. But notice that Jesus did not say, hey there are wolves out there. It’s dangerous. You better stay inside. No, instead he acknowledged the wolves and warned that they are there. But we are not meant to live life as sheep protected behind the walls of a sheep pen safe from all harm. We were made to go into the world, living life and bringing life, even when it is dangerous, even when there are wolves around. It is in those moments that you will experience being fully alive.

Somehow we have bought into the cultural worldview that sees anything hard, painful and the least bit dangerous as something to be avoided. The result being very few Christians will ever feed a homeless person because who knows what they might to when you give them something to eat. Very few Christians will ever use vacation time to go serve in another country or even another part of America, because isn’t it dangerous there? Very few Christians will ever share their faith in Christ with a neighbor for surely they may get mad at me? Very few Christians will ever truly experience the abundant life Jesus offers us because we are obsessed with being safe when in reality we are slowly destroying ourselves by breathing the toxic air of a cultural value.

The Kingdom of God will not be advanced by Christ followers who are always measuring what to do based on the value of being safe. In such a worldview being safe will always trump advancing the kingdom because advancing the kingdom is not safe, it is risky and dangerous, but it is full of life, life abundant.

Part 1 of 3. Next up, How Our Obsession With Comfort Has Made Us Spiritually Obese.

Comments
  1. gracerenae says:

    Love this! It is so true. I love the analogy of the frog in kettle water. We wouldn’t accept “bigger” sins if there were not “smaller,” more insidious ones dragging us away from the light. Very good. (:

  2. hiddensecrets16@yahoo.com says:

    Pertaining to your sound message, which I totally agree with, the problem of the three cultural values come a long way, and does effect Christians world wide.

    My saying stays; “Join the Devil and he will tear you apart. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Based on the Gospel of God, no promise was ever given to any believer that they will live a safe, comfortable and peaceful life. Infact the Eternal Living Word of God warns all believers, that whosoever will lead a Godly life will suffer persecution. This is confirmed in many of the Scriptures, which unfortunately many Christians refuse to accept.

    When one becomes a true Christian, one then becomes a member of God’s Holy army, which fights the war against ALL evil. Christians must take care, not to become a Judas for a worthless 30 pieces of silver, because then it becomes suicide. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ said the following; “Do not fear that which can kill the body, but not the soul. But fear God that can cast the body and the soul into hell.”
    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

  3. Cristal says:

    I have a MAJOR problem with your blog post. And, I’m usually one of your biggest fans. Here’s my beef…YOU LEFT ME HANGING! I want all three parts right now. (Does this mean I’m part of the microwave society – “I want it right now!”? Hmmmm….maybe you’ll touch on this in Parts 2 or 3?). 🙂

    In all seriousness, this post hits the nail on the head. Our family has traveled into “dangerous” areas as we follow the Lord. We have had a minister tell my husband he was not using wisdom in bringing his family into places known for danger (not our own Pastor). Our response: “It’d be more dangerous for us to sit inside our comfortable home in our safe city than to follow Christ wherever He leads.”

  4. Bruce says:

    I don’t particularly like to disagree with such a well stated opinion but when you addressed safety and used the illustrations you did I believe you missed the point. Your assertion is very myopic when addressing safety. Each one of us lives in danger each day from our own indulgences. The world is a dangerous place as Egypt demonstrates but our real danger is from our own indulgence. How can we in our current environment even remotely feel safe. I believe instead of safety you could have inserted greed. Greed/covet is the true evil here. Greedy people are polluting our air, water, dirt and we are dying because of it. When we travel to the mid east countries we know we are going into dangerous areas. With each breath we draw or bite we eat we are slowly killing ourselves. Common favorably touted weed killers, insecticides are giving our children and us cancer – and can be bought in any hardware store. We are altering the genetics of our food with toxic materials that other civilized countries have banned. We dump toxins in our ground and water that slowly kills us. Drilling practices for cheap energy often go array. All because of greed or coveting and for executives of large companies to increase their salaries to earn more money than they can spend in a lifetime. They say 1% of people have 99% of the money in our country and still they want more. Our political figures go right along with them because they support their re-elections. That is the frog and boiling water application – we are having the heat slowly turned up and we are slowly dying because of it because we sit by and let corrupt corporations tell us very toxic materials are safe for us to use.

  5. Dan Lacich says:

    Cristal, you are the best! My first thought was how in the world did I upset Cristal, we usually track pretty closely.
    Well I left you hanging on purpose and yes you are clearly part of the microwave society. But don’t fret too much. Watch for segment two early in the coming week.
    Your final line says it perfectly. There are many different types of danger. Physical is only one of them and really not the most serious.
    Dan

  6. Dan Lacich says:

    Bruce
    Stay tuned for segment three. As I said, safety, comfort, and security are the values I am dealing with. The point of the post is that these are values that are held to be honorable even among Christians and they end up suffocating us unawares. Greed is something most people would say is not good, in spite of Gordon Gecko’s statement to the contrary. The values of comfort and security, and by security I mean financial security, are the positive spin we put on greed. So as I said, wait for the next two segments.
    As to the 99% and 1% illustration, that does nothing to impact me for this reason. If you live the United States and are complaining about the 1% my ears are deaf to that. The reason is simple, by the mere fact of living in the USA you are among the riches 5% perfect of people in the world! I find the 99% 1% argument to be myopic and American centric.
    Dan

  7. Karen Hufman says:

    Love the blog and totally agree! American obsession with safety, comfort and financial security are all about people having to control everything, instead of trusting God.

  8. Roland Nelson says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Dan. We’ve let ourselves become carried away, and deceived. BTW this isn’t jst an American thing, it’s spreading faster than one can imagine. Thank you for posts, always blesses me. The Lord help us…

  9. michelle says:

    I see this more and more everyday as Americans have begun to turn to our government for our peace and safety, giving up their God ordained freedoms that we had while keeping Him first in our daily walks. This is very evident as Karen stated above we have put our trust in our government, which is misplaced worship. I am reminded of the verses in Thessalonians 5:2-4
    2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
    3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
    Keep your heads up brothers and sisters, I don’t think we have long to go before our precious Lord’s return. I agree whole heartedly we are far safer going where God leads…even it be through the shadow of death.

  10. […] and I talked tonight about this article. It’s about the idea that safety, comfort, and security can get in the way of living the […]

  11. carolbarol5 says:

    Thank you for writing this~ may the Holy Spirit use it to convict us and lead us out of our safety nets, fully trusting and relying on Him! To God be the glory!

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