I remember my old neighborhood where I grew up: staying out late at night on Sullivan Street hill, laughing and hanging out with neighborhood friends. We didn’t even lock our doors until time to go to bed. We lived knowing we could trust our neighbors with whom we shared our lives.
We have come a long way. There is the sense that we cannot trust anyone: government, neighbors. And in many facets of our lives, we are using devices to protect us. Social media invades our personal lives so much. People we look up to fail. People in positions fall. Honesty seems to have lost its way.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever is just, lovely, pure, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” In this day in which we live and walk, we must walk honestly. We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”.
I went to my local grocery store a few weeks ago. They had let some Boston Ferns get bad, so they marked them down from $10 to $3.99. I knew I could Miracle Grow and nurture these plants back to health.
I hung one on the side of my cart and handed the bar code of the other plant to the cashier and told her I had two plants. She rang up my groceries then leaned over and whispered something to me. I really could not understand her, so I dismissed this awkward situation.
When I got home, I went over my ticket, as I always do, just to check. I realized the cashier had only charged me for one fern. It hit me that the cashier was whispering to me that she didn’t charge me for the second fern, as if we would overlook this and let it go.
Now I know that my own heart could excuse this whole incident. “Well, it was her fault. It’s only $3.99, etc., etc.”, but I knew what I must do. I returned to the store a few days later and approached a different cashier. I had kept the bar code ticket, so I showed it to the cashier and explained the whole story. Then I told her that I needed to pay for the other fern.
What happened next really surprised me. The cashier kept looking at me like she couldn’t believe I came back. I told her the second fern didn’t belong to me if I didn’t pay for it. Have you ever been somewhere and you just feel someone glaring at you? I turned to the women next to me in line. The look on her face was as though I looked like an alien from another planet. Then the cashier kept thanking me over and over.
I walked away thinking this should not be that big of a deal, that uncommon. I also realized, sadly, that it is not common for this kind of honesty to show up. When I think of the audience I had, 1 Thessalonians 4:12 comes to mind. “That you may walk honestly toward those who are outside (without), that you may have lack of nothing.” This is our response; our proper testimony to the unsaved, a world that needs to see and know true honesty in life.
Lest I leave you with the impression that I am this wonderful person, I could have only carried this out because the Lord has planted His grace in my heart. His saving grace is responsible for me doing the right thing. 2 Corinthians 8:21 says, “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
Yes, in the seemingly small uninteresting day to day activity of a housewife, honesty is the best policy.
In the winter, we like to keep our houses warm, and in the summer, we like to keep them cool: makes sense. In the summer, I like the temp in the house to be about 68 degrees. But setting the thermostat on 73 or 74 is much more practical financially. So I sacrifice a little cool for a little cash.
In the winter, however, I like the temp to be around 72 degrees. But again 67 or 68 saves money. So I wear a sleeve to save some coin. Seems like I could just put it on one temperature and leave it, but what is normal in one season is not normal in the other. Thank the Lord for central heating, air, and thermostats. Thank Him also that in his mercy He made us adaptable.
Lest you are wondering, normal also changes culturally and generationally, and that is when adaptability can be a bad thing. Norms and mores fluctuate from one generation to another. Sometimes this is merely amusing, as in the change of hair styles or the width of lapels and ties. Who has not laughed at pictures from the past?
But the new normal is meant to take us far beyond hairstyles and neckties. Postmodern “normality” is a race into moral denial and moral darkness. Just about eight or nine short years ago a young woman I worked with told me that she and her fiancé were living together. “I know we should wait until we are married,” she opined, “but…” These few short years later no one concerns herself with what should or should not be done. “Should” hardly enters the equation. No one is apologetic about living outside the bounds of Biblical moral law. It is the biblicist who must be apologetic. And here is where the new use of “should” comes into play. It is the new moral restraint. One should not erect a moral standard. One should not reject or criticize another’s behavior. Tolerance of everything except Biblical truth claims is the new moral norm.
So the entrenched new normal is unrestrained sexual pleasure without marital responsibility. The new normal is, “I am what I feel I am no matter what my anatomy or common sense tell me.” And are those who espouse this new normality questioned or criticized? No; they are applauded. The frightening reality of Romans 1:32 comes to pass before our eyes.
So what are we to do? We certainly must stand for the Truth and stand on the Truth. But we must begin by examining ourselves. We, and by we I mean the people of God, have slipped into the twilight zone of a new normal ourselves. It affects dress, reading material, habits, etc. But I will use language as an example. Not so long ago the term “screw” was a substitute for the proverbial f bomb. Profane men and young men used it when they were uncomfortable using the latter. It still carries the profane connotation but has made its way into Christian vernacular conversation. Similarly, only crude and profane persons used to say that something or someone “sucks”; and for obvious reasons. Now it is regularly used by Christians on Facebook and in “normal” conversation without so much as a thought.
My only point is this. While we moan over the decline in culture and the obvious wickedness that is on the increase, let the church, the bride of Christ, be careful of becoming comfortable with a new normal. Let us be slow to abandon old standards without considering the source and consequences of the new ones. And let us be more concerned with the success of the Gospel and the glory of our Savior than the exercise of our supposed freedoms. “For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be slaves to one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
In the love of Christ,
Culture is the expression of the beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of a society. What is dear to that society comes out in its speech, how it spends its time and money, and it’s every day behaviors. Engrained in its psyche is what it thinks about self, others, and God.
Often there is within a culture other smaller cultures. We call them subcultures. While the subculture may have different traditions and think differently than the culture within which it exists, it generally coexists and to some degree submits to (as much as it can) the cultural ideas of the dominant culture.
Sometimes conflict occurs when the differences between a culture and a subculture are so marked that the two cannot coexist amicably. It is not unusual, at this point, for the dominant culture to oppress, suppress, or even persecute such a subculture.
Biblical Christianity has always been, by its very nature, a subculture. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Apostle Paul challenged the church to be in the world but not of the world. The early church understood that they were “pilgrims and strangers” and that genuine fellowship could not exist between children of light and those who walk in spiritual darkness. While the early church was instructed to submit to earthly authorities, it also understood that the Christian’s ultimate allegiance was to God and God alone. The beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of the early church and the modern church are Biblical and exercised with eternity in view.
Until recently, the subculture of Christianity has peacefully coexisted within the larger framework of American culture. This peaceful coexistence has been facilitated by the fact that many of our founders were either Christian or highly christianized in their thinking. Our founding documents were Biblically influenced writings and assumed a religious, if not Christian, constituency. The residual influence of this early American culture created a safe environment for the health and growth of Christianity for many years with little cause for conflict.
But recent years have brought new developments in the relationship between the church and American culture. We have witnessed the demise of a christianized culture and the waning influence of Christ’s church. The reality of the church as a subculture has become vividly apparent, and the hostility of the dominant culture is growing. Oppression, suppression, and persecution are on the rise. The old order is rapidly fading.
This we know. Our weapons are not human, fleshly ones. They are mighty through God. The Gospel is our sword. The Lord is our rearguard. The earthly outcome is not clear, but the purposes of our Lord are sure. This fading American culture is not our hope. We are its hope. We must not waste our time and energies wistfully longing for things as they used to be. Let us rather build our lives and the church of Jesus Christ on the beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of a Biblical, Christ-centered people. We must not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good; “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 12:21 and 16:20). Let us be marked by the love of our Savior, and let the world stand back and wonder.
In the love of Christ,