Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. | Titus 3.1-8
In order for the church to effectively engage with culture, we must first redefine what the purpose is: why do we engage culture? The answer that many would give is: to make more Christians. The problem with this answer is that conversion is one of the results of engaging, not the ultimate reason for it. People WILL come to saving faith through our engagement with the world (Romans 10.14-17), but the reason to engage with culture is to make the glory of God known (Ephesians 3.8-11). We live our lives as an act of worship, not a means of accomplishment (Romans 12.1-2). Why is it so important that we get this right?
The history of the church is highs and lows. There have been huge contributions to society (abolition of slaves, civil rights, hospitals, schools, scholarship) and there have been some forgettable events as well (crusades, Salem witch trials, Scopes Monkey Trial). What sets these two, the good and the bad, apart from each other is the purpose behind the action: why did they engage culture?
In the good, we see people who saw themselves as part of human society: a shared welfare. They lived within their culture while being driven by the core tenants of God’s Word. As ambassadors of His truth, they changed the culture by proclaiming His truth into it: revealing God’s glory.
In the bad, we see people who saw their purpose as making people accept God; creating belief. They made enemies and attempted to convert them, often at the end of a sword, a noose, or a lawsuit. In the end, their legacy is connected with the pain they caused rather than the good they stood for.
I am not saying that we will not face opposition or have to stand against enemies of God, but we shouldn’t go out looking for it. Instead, our lives should be a daily attempt to join with ALL people fighting against our common enemy: SIN. We do this by infusing God’s goodness and truth into the world, pushing back against areas of disorder, and pointing all good toward the source (James 1.17-18). People should WANT to know our God because of the way we live for Him.