And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” – Acts 23:1-3
The term “culture warrior” has become a pejorative descriptor for people like me. I can understand an unbeliever’s ridicule (since they have not been indwelt by the Holy Spirit), but not a fellow believer’s. Jesus commanded us to be “salt and light” and to winsomely confront an unloving culture with love and truth. These are desperate times in the life of our nation, one drowning in narcissism, self-indulgence and moral relativism. It needs direction amid the chaos and carnage.
In Acts 23:1-3 the Apostle Paul lambasts the highest religious official in Israel, replete with name-calling and threats of retribution from God. It is a thing of beauty. I love it. Now, come on – admit it – you like it, too. We have all felt the way Paul felt at one time or another. We see our public officials too often use their positions to ingratiate themselves (much like Congress did recently in giving itself a pay raise) while providing a bankrupt government that is increasingly intrusive when it comes to our freedom. Their lying and sloppy handling of public policy ticks us off – and rightly so. God established government, gave it its authority to provide order and justice. So when it acts contrary to God’s Word it ought to draw a rebuke from God’s people.
Paul was not the only one in the Bible to “drop the hammer” on some arrogant political or religious leader. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s representatives appealing to the rulers of their day. What is often taken for granted is how passionately they made their positions known. Jesus took the whip to the moneychangers in the temple because they were abusing their cultural privileges at the expense of others. Elijah laughed his tail off, mocking the humiliated prophets of Baal. Moses, Daniel, Jeremiah, Peter and John all strongly expressed their displeasure with the destructive cultural activities of selfish individuals.
Yet we must guard against over-exuberance. Theologian T. M. Moore reminds us in an instructive seven-part devotion titled, “A Culture of Love,” that we must speak the truth in love. “Nevertheless, as Paul and all the others managed to have a good – and loving – conscience toward God and men when they challenged the unloving culture of their day, so must we.” This is not always easy, so we need God’s help to keep our minds and hearts pure before Him. It can be a difficult task because we are fallible subjects engaged in spiritual warfare, a ubiquitous battle between worldviews – one based on the Bible and the other based on the darkest desires of sinful, secularized man. This means we may have to crack a few idols’ heads along the way as we strive for a culture of love.
Moore offers some suggestions to help us as we engage an unloving culture. Obviously we are to love God and our neighbors, but more is required. Before we speak, we must make sure we know what we are talking about. Too often we spread untruths about this or that atheist and what they were alleged to have said. We too often rip into corporations, Hollywood, authors and artists, questioning their motives without the facts.
“Before you turn over the tables of these cultural purveyors in your Sunday school class or on the Internet, make sure you have your facts straight,” Moore warns. “Do some research. Get your own quotes from those writings or products you intend to confront. Let their own words and ways speak against them as you challenge their abuse or misuse of the culture entrusted to them.”
Also, we should be measured in our response. Yes, Jesus used a whip and Paul called Ananias an ugly name, but we are not Jesus or Paul. Therefore we must guard our own hearts from sinful behavior. That will accomplish nothing for God’s glory. If we become over-heated in our responses to abuses and misuses of culture, we will look worse than the chumps we are trying to expose. “Use questions in your response,” Moore writes. Guard against hyperbole and speak the truth in love, articulating it plainly and clearly, “so there’s no mistaking you do not approve of that which you are denouncing, and for good reasons,” he adds.
Finally, do it privately. “Give those who are misusing or abusing their cultural privileges the opportunity of reflecting on and amending their ways in private,” Moore advises. Bottom line: If we do not confront unloving forms of culture, we will be overwhelmed by them. Let us do it winsomely and in a way that glorifies God, no matter the