Our culture is constantly sending out messages. Everything we read and watch is a canvas littered with ideas and visions they want to tell us. Either to make us buy something or to believe something. For Christians I have mainly seen two responses to culture:
1. Blindly take it in – we sit and we consume. We flick on the TV and open our minds and allow the images and words to flit in and out while not really paying attention to it. I think most people do this, not just Christians.
2. We blindly reject it – We reject the culture and deem it as evil without engaging or understanding it. This happens quite a lot, you hear a few influential people say something is bad and it catches like wild-fire and you end up agreeing with them without thinking about it yourself. This can often create a Christian sub-culture, where we reject the cultures films, music and clothes and come up with our own christian movies, music and wrist bands… (there is obviously conscience and wisdom here, if something isn’t helpful or causing you to stumble then reject it and there are some things that need to be rejected straight away – like porn)
I think if we are leaning towards either extreme than it’s not good, the middle ground is no better either. What we need is Christians engaging with the culture and the messages that they see. Just like paul in Acts 17 where he looks around and engages with the people in the market place and he engages with the thinkers and he uses their own culture and poetry to show them who God really is. We have an amazing message and an amazing person to speak about and funny enough it’s what everyone is really searching for, culture screams out for the need of a saviour and so do your non christian friends.
The most obvious place I see this is on TV. And they are called adverts. All adverts are screaming that you need a saviour! Think about what adverts are saying:
You have bad breath, bad teeth, ugly skin, you are getting old, your clothes are terrible, you are fat and you don’t have any friends…
They are telling you that you are in a bad situation and you need help, you need a saviour to get out of that situation! and what is their solution?
Buy this toothpaste to have fresh breath and amazing teeth that will sparkle and glow in the dark… Put on these lotions and potions to make you youthful and attractive. Wear these clothes that will make your popularity from zero to hero and if you keep to this weight loss programme of eating cardboard you will be super thin! plus if you buy this car you will have the full package – Good looking, young, popular, rich and successful with a gleaming smile.
They are your saviours. You may laugh, but I know I have believed it more than once and I think you probably have too. It is so easy to as well because we can just buy these things or have them as our goal to reach. And I am not saying that you shouldnt look good and have nice smelling breath, but when it becomes all that we want and when we believe what the adverts are saying that these things will make us better people, they will fulfill us and others love us more – then its a problem.
Really when you compare this with Jesus, they really don’t stand up. It sounds so obvious, but my heart forgets it so easily. Does your heart know this? That Jesus is the saviour and that he loves you without any of these products. Do your friends know they can find a better saviour then these products? Have you told them that? Have you told them that their problem is far worse than having bad hair, their greatest problem is not knowing and trusting Jesus?
Jesus is the one that fulfills and never runs out. He is the living water and spring of life that continues to flow out to us. It is good news.
When we find ourselves engaging with culture, we find that the world is crying out for a saviour, a true saviour that will help us out of this mess. It is in nearly every story that is written – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Miss Congeniality etc. There is a disaster and then a saviour. But they don’t last or they fail or the story ends. But when we as Christians engage with this we notice that Jesus fulfills that, the Gospel is the ultimate story that we all crave and with this message we can speak truth into the culture around us.
Film [and culture] is a powerful communicator. It speaks to the emotions, the imagination and the mind. It tells a story, but the story it tells can redefine what we believe about the world, the future, even ourselves. It can reinforce or undermine our value system, our moral compass and our spiritual openness. But it is not the creator of the film who has ultimate power over us. We are hardwired to hear the voice of the one who created the filmmaker and the world we live in. We are immersed in the story he is writing, and it is as we read and study the plot synopsis that are our Scriptures, that we will hear Gods voice speaking to us, find resonance with the echoes in our culture, and draw a new generation of people to be part of God’s story. –Krish Kandiah