Growing up just slightly to the west of the Bible Belt’s proverbial buckle, I entered adulthood with a strong knowledge of the Word of God. That’s the bright side. The other side of that shiny buckle is that I grew up with a lot of ideas that were touted as “Christian” that were really just cultural. The culture was so entwined with Christianity that it was very difficult to see them each for what they were.
One funny example is what were known as “The Blue Laws”. These laws prohibited certain commercial activities on Sundays. Car sales are still prohibited! All of this, thanks to the Puritan heritage that still influences our culture. Never mind that when first established in the colony of Connecticut, the laws allowed for the militia to force people to attend church and forbade everything from working to wearing lace.
As a young adult I moved with my husband to New York City. I was somewhat amused at the fear exhibited toward Southern Christians. I knew they had little to be afraid of, but maybe the militia thing was still haunting them. For the first time in my life I started to see the difference between culture and Christianity. I happily discovered that I could wear jeans or shorts to church without being looked at like a heathen! It was not because these people were disrespectful of being in church or because they simply weren’t “raised right”. It was just a practical matter. We all walked a long way (by suburban standards) to get to church. We dressed for the weather and for wherever we were going after church, which was usually Central Park.
I later moved to Ohio and then to North Carolina. I’ve been in a lot of different kinds of churches. I’ve noticed that churches have their cultural expressions as well. I’ve learned to appreciate the differences. The different churches addressed in Revelations had different strengths and weaknesses. Jesus had something to say to each of them on both counts. I’ve been to churches in several countries other than the United States. Those experiences are eye-opening as well.
Lately my eyes have been opened further. There is a purity in our personal relationship with Jesus that comes when we recognize that we really are not of this world or the cultures we live in and neither is Jesus. The Lord has taken me aside lately and helped me to examine my heart, beliefs, assumptions and mind sets once again. He wants us to have a Kingdom of God mindset first, rather than an earthly regional or even denominational (i.e. Texan, Baptist, Eastern, Northern, American, Episcopalian, non-denominational etc.) mindset. We are all shaped by our culture and he placed us where we are and has given us certain experiences to teach us certain things, but ultimately, our identity has to be in Him and as Citizens of His Kingdom, and although it is molded by, it cannot be grounded in our culture, Christian or otherwise. When we are not Christ centered, we tend toward prideful and egocentric attitudes or on the other end of the spectrum globalism.
So, if you dare, ask the Lord to show you the things that you may have accepted as “The Gospel Truth” that are really only cultural at best and unscriptural at worst. It’s a needed exercise at some point and it makes us much more usable by God to those of all cultures and nationalities.
Luke 17:21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.