Theology 101

Our Calling to Restore Culture

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If a significant part of our calling as God’s people is to reweave shalom, what will that look like in our society today?

As we have seen in previous posts, God’s Cultural Mandate demands that Christians embrace their responsibility to influence the greater culture through the most powerful means at their disposal—their vocational calling.  Yet a closer examination of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon shows a much stronger connection to the Cultural Mandate.

What is Jeremiah telling the exiles to do in his letter (Jeremiah 29:1-11)?  Two things: first, have families and raise children; second, work for the shalom of the city.  As we suggested in our last post, Jeremiah is reminding the exiles of the Cultural Mandate.  He is telling them be fruitful and multiply, continue to fill the world with the images of God and to take dominion in this new situation where God has placed them.  What does taking dominion look like when you are an exile in a strange land? It looks like reweaving shalom.

This has great significance to the Church today.  As Tim Keller writes in his book Generous Justice:

In general, to do justice means to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish. Specifically, however, to do justice means to go to places where the fabric of shalom has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling through the fabric, and to repair it…How do we do that? The only way to reweave and strengthen the fabric is reweaving yourself into it…If we keep our money, time and power to ourselves, for ourselves, instead of sending them out into our neighbor’s lives, then we may be literally on top of one another, but we are not interwoven socially, relationally, financially and emotionally.  Reweaving shalom, means to sacrificially thread, lace, and press your time, goods and power and resources into the lives and needs of others.

When Christians work to serve the common good of their neighbors and society, when we try to reweave shalom, we generate unparalleled influence on the culture. Herman Bavinck writes that culture,

In the broadest sense is the purpose for which God created man after His image. . . . God’s image had been granted to man so that he might in his dominion over the whole earth bring it into manifestation. And this dominion of the earth includes not only the most ancient callings of men, such as hunting and fishing, agriculture and stock-raising, but also trade and commerce, finance and credit, the exploitation of mines and mountains, and science and art. Such culture does not have its end in man, but in man who is the image of God and who stamps the imprint of his spirit upon all that he does, it returns to God, who is the First and the Last.

Today we do not see the imprint of God being stamped on the prevailing human culture to any great extent. Instead, again as Tim Keller writes,

When many Christians enter a vocational field, either they seal off their faith and go to work like everyone else around them, or they spout Bible verses to their coworkers. We do not know very well how to persuade people of Christianity’s answers by showing them the faith-based, worldview roots of everyone’s work. We do not know how to equip our people to think out the implications of the gospel for art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship.

We as Christians must learn how to use the gifts God has given us, particularly in our vocational callings, to be salt and light at every available opportunity.  As Henry Blackaby says, every Christian should “watch to see where God is at work and join him.”

Yet many in the Church today are asking the question, “should Christians try to influence culture at all?” We will answer that question in our next post.

What is your vocational calling? How can/do you use it to restore culture? 

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