Loving the Storm-Drenched
By Tasoni Frederica Matthewes-Green
The culture, then, is like the weather. We may be able to participate in it in some modest ways, seeding the clouds, but it is a recipe for frustration to expect that we can direct it. Nor should we expect positive change without some simultaneous downturn in a different corner. Nor should we expect that any change will be permanent. The culture will always be shifting, and it will always be with us.
God has not called us to change the weather. Our primary task as believers, and our best hope for lasting success, is to care for individuals caught up in the pounding storm. They are trying to make sense of their lives with inadequate resources, confused and misled by the Evil One, and unable to tell their left hand from their right (Jonah 4:11). They are not a united force; they are not even in solidarity with each other, apart from the unhappy solidarity of being molded by the same junk-food entertainment. They are sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless (Matt. 9:36). Only from a spot of grounded safety can anyone discern what to approve and what to reject in the common culture.
But we must regretfully acknowledge that we too are shaped by the weather in ways we do not realize. Most worryingly, it has induced us to think that the public square is real life. We are preoccupied with that external world, when our Lord’s warnings have much more to do with our intimate personal lives, down to the level of our thoughts.
So, when Christians gather, there’s less talk about humility, patience, and the struggle against sin. Instead, there’s near-obsessive emphasis on the need for a silver-bullet media product that will magically open the nation to faith in Jesus Christ. Usually, the product they crave is a movie. Now, I’m delighted that Christians are working in Hollywood; we should be salt and light in every community that exists, and so powerful a medium clearly merits our powerful stories. But it’s telling that the media extravaganza so eagerly awaited is not a novel or a song, something an individual might undertake, but a movie: something that will require enormous physical and professional resources, millions of dollars, and, basically, be done by somebody else.
This focus on an external, public signal is contrary to the embodied mission of the church. Christ planned to attract people to himself through the transformed lives of his people. It’s understandable that we feel chafed by what media giants say about us and the things we care about, and that we crave the chance to tell our own side of the story. It’s as if the world’s ballpark is ringed with billboards, and we rankle because we should have a billboard too. But if someone should actually see our billboard, and be intrigued, and walk in the door of a church, he would find that he had joined a community that was just creating another billboard.