11 Jun Discussion Guide: The Best Is Yet To Come Week 8
Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.
This week we continue our new series titled “The Best Is Yet To Come.” We will be walking through the book of Acts and looking at who Jesus has called us to be and what Jesus has called us to do in light of all that He has already done. As we study the descriptive history of the early church our hope is that these truths will move in our hearts to become a prescriptive call to go into all the world and be witnesses for Christ.
What would you say defines a culture?
Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West
“Christianity is not the projection of one culture, because Christianity has no one culture.”
What culture does Christianity belong to?
What does that say about Christianity and the Gospel?
Christianity does not belong to any one culture. Though its origin is Jerusalem and the Middle East, Christianity quickly spread into Africa, Asia, Europe, and then on into North America, Central America, South America and even to Australia. Statistically speaking 25% of all Christians are in Central and South America and the Caribbean. 22% of Christians are in Africa, 15% of Christians are in Asia, 20% are in Europe, and only 12% are in North America.
By contrast, 96% of all Muslims live in the Middle East, Northern Africa or South Asia. 88% of Buddhists live in East Asia. 98% of Hindus live in India or South Asia.
What this indicates about Christianity is that the Gospel and it’s claims of salvation are not something that was projected by any one culture as a way to answer life’s, and therefore that culture’s, biggest questions. Christianity is not a religious system devised by man within the context of one culture as a means to control, manipulate, or provide some false sense of hope however benevolently guided the intentions might have been. No. Christianity does not belong to any one culture of man. It was not a man-made ideology or philosophy. It is God’s story and therefore celebrates, fits into, and yet challenges and over rules every culture. It takes all those parts of the different cultures that reflect who He is and magnifies them while simultaneously taking all those parts of the different cultures that mar and destroy His image and over rules them. It means that Christianity does not belong to any one culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, or language. It levels the playing field and says that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace, that we are all image bearers of God who have sought be become our own gods and are in need to being put back together according to God’s design. This means that Christianity at its core is about love and equality in accordance with God’s original design.
Craig Biddle, The Objective Standard: The Causes of War and Those of Peace
In his article written for The Objective Standard magazine, Craig Biddle claims:
“The primary political cause of war is Statism: any social system based on the notion that the state has a right to force individuals to act agains their judgement for the same of some “greater good.” (Communism, Nazism, fascism, theocracy).
One of the main ideological causes of war is collectivism: the notion that the individual’s life belongs to some group or collective, which therefore may force him to “think” or act in accordance with the dictates of the group. (Slavery & the Civil War)
The primary “moral” cause of war is altruism: the notion that being moral consists in self-sacrificially serving others. (The U.S. going to rescue South Vietnam)
The most fundamental philosophic cause of war is mysticism: acceptance of the notion that knowledge can be acquired by non-sensory, non-rational means, such as faith, revelation, ESP, intuition, or any other form of “just knowing.” (ISIS)
The most fundamental psychological cause of war is evasion: the refusal to face relevant facts, the act of pretending that reality is other than it is. (Europe ignoring the clear advances of Hitler and the Nazis).”
These are all culturally influenced “isms” that lead to one culture seeking the destruction of another.
Why do you think the differences in cultures have resulted in wars, genocide, slavery and injustice?
The greatest desire and longing in the heart of humanity is the need to belong, the need to matter, to know we have some kind of significance in this world. When we take God out of that equation then we are only left with the ability to evaluate our own worth and significance through the perceptions and opinions of others. The pinnacle of our achievements comes when we are celebrated or envied by others. Therefore, the worst thing that could happen to us is for us to be rejected, to be considered the outcast amidst our peers, our own culture. This is why all of those “isms” carry such power. They all play on that fear of insignificance. They all tell us that if we don’t go along with the agenda, if we don’t buy into what is being sold by those in power, if we dare to speak up with what our conscience is telling us, then we will be rejected. We will lose our position of significance within the greater context of society and culture.
And, if significance in our own cultural setting is what we long for, then by definition that means our significance is elevated as our culture and society as a whole is elevated. The only way to elevate your own culture is by suppressing and even destroying another culture, or cultures. We have seen this play out with Nazism in Germany, with Communism in Russia and China, with appartheid in South Africa, and with Racism in the United States. They are all “isms” seeking to elevate one cultural system or identity over another for the purpose of gaining power and significance. When that happens, the culture(s) who are being suppressed begin to protest, resist and fight back. This is how all wars, genocides, and conflicts begin.
Why do you think the need to fit in, to be accepted, to be part of the “in-crowd” is such a strong driving force in people’s lives?
The need to fit in and be accepted is so powerful because we are designed for love. To know you are loved is to know that you matter, to know that in the eyes of another you carry worth and significance. Originally we were designed to find that worth and acceptance in the eyes and heart and love of an eternal, unchanging Creator. But, when we rejected His love and decided to be like God rather than accepting His love and worshipping Him as our Creator, then that need for love and significance got twisted. Now, there is something in the heart of every human being that struggles with the fear that we are not enough, that we don’t have what it takes, that we have lost the worth we were designed with in the first place. Something in us just knows we are but a shadow of who we were meant to be, and therefore we strive and grasp and manipulate and do whatever we have to do in order to obtain even a glimpse of that worth and significance, even it is only for a brief moment of fame.
What people are usually considered to be, or accepted by, the “in-crowd”?
How does the cultural idea of the “in-crowd” differ from the Gospel’s definition of the “in-crowd”?
The cultural idea of the “in-crowd” says that the strongest, the prettiest, the wealthiest, the most fit are the ones who are to be elevated in society and everyone else should seek to emulate them. This is why celebrity worship is such a big thing in our culture. It’s why YouTube and Facebook exists. We are constantly looking for avenues through which we can obtain the spot light, to have all eyes on us, to be envied by those who do not have what we have. This is why people take photos of their amazing dinner they just made, so others will applaud them and celebrate them.
By contrast, the Gospel acceptance of grace says that it is the weak, the broken, the culturally insignificant ones, the ones who recognize they don’t have what it takes, that they are not enough, that they will never deserve to be applauded or celebrated, that get into the “in-crowd” of God’s Kingdom. It is the “poor in Spirit” who inherit the Kingdom. The reason why is because when we admit that we do not have what it takes, then we are simultaneously admitting that Jesus is the only One who does. We are confessing our need for God to once again be God of our lives, we are accepting His love for us and being restored to the relationship, and therefore the purpose, for which we were originally designed.
Galatians 2:11-13, Paul confronting Peter
But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
What kind of behavior does the cultural pressure to be part of the “in-crowd” produce? Why?
What kind of behavior does the Gospel grace of acceptance produce? Why?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
How could a community centered on Gospel acceptance impact the culture we live in?