[originally posted on July 31st 2013]
By Jacob Toman
How should we live in the midst of this very broken world? How are believers in the big story of the creator in creation supposed to encounter culture, society, and the rest of creation?
Each day for the rest of this week we will be examining a different part of a 4 part acronym: EPIC.
E- Engage Reality
You are a human, that means you have interests, likes and dislikes. You have hobbies like reading, internet browsing, and perhaps enjoying the outdoors. But how do you bring faith and the big story of the creator into daily life? Often this is a difficult question, and it comes in the form of terms like “Christian Business” or “Christian School” or “Christian Ethics”. Those are fine terms and they describe many things that I am 100% in support of. But for us this week we are examining how our faith can paradigmatic be implemented across work, play, and family. As you come into this discussion on a big picture paradigm, you first made the decision to click on a link, or browse a particular page. That first decision you had to make was whether or not you would engage or ignore this particular webpage. We go through thousands of decisions like this every moment of every day. The basic question of engage or ignore reminds me of the silly image of those who have chosen to ignore something or someone by sticking their head in the sand. The person who decides to ignore a lion staring them down for an evening snack doesn't actually change the reality, they simply don’t see it until they are already in the mouth of the carnivore.
The first step to living out the faith God has given you is actually making a decision to engage or ignore the reality that is present before you. This decision to engage or ignore is incredibly important and has numerous biblical examples; Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4), David confronted by Nathan (2 Sam 12), Jonah fleeing from God on a boat in the midst of a storm (Jonah 1), and I’m sure you can think of many more. The options is simple, engage the reality, or ignore it. The positive examples (such as Jesus with the Samaritan woman) show individuals who have seen the what is real and decided to engage it. When Jesus first sat down at the well, he engaged the woman in conversation, he didn't ignore her or ignore the depth of person who she was. When David is confronted by Nathan, Nathan had to make the hard decision to lay before the King the wickedness of his murderous plot and adulterous lust. When Jonah is asleep in the boat he has clearly chosen to ignore the reality of the situation and go on living with his proverbial head in the sand.
““Man staggers through life yapped at by his reason, pulled and shoved by his appetites, whispered to by fears, beckoned by hopes. Small wonder that what he craves most is self-forgetting.” ― Eric Hoffer”
Escapism is a serious temptation. It seems to surround us in American culture on every side. The denial of real problems solves nothing, and caving in to the belief that “ignorance is bliss” is an absolute denial of God’s ability to cause great change in this world. Building walls between yourself and a certain aspect of culture won’t make that aspect of culture go away, and it won’t inspire anyone else to bring the gospel into a certain area of culture. There is a caveat here that not everyone is called to do everything, THANK GOD for that! We each have differing gifts and abilities, and so please don’t mistake this as an argument for everyone reading to become the next revolutionary leader in social change. What this is an argument for is for everyone reading this to become engaged in the reality of God’s work in and through culture.
Perhaps at this point some may be thinking “this sounds great, but I’m not Nathan, Jesus, or Jonah, so what does this mean for me?” That’s a fantastic question! You are right now involved in some area of culture. Maybe through a hobby, through your work, or even through your involvement and interaction with others on the internet! We all have aspects of culture we are a part of and have opportunity to participate for Christ Jesus. It’s a tough task acknowledging the brokenness of this world, and trying to see Christ’s glory shine in some areas of culture that others may find repulsive or offensive. As we live in culture and in relationship with others it is good to remember that Christ’s kingdom is prevailing against the gates of hell (Matt 16:18) and through our engagement of this reality we get to participate in Christ’s awesome work in the world. What a privilege that the King of the universe delights in our engagement in his work in the work!
All this week as we close each of these little paradigmatic discussions on what it means to live in this currently broken but beautiful world, there will be little prayers in the form of questions that I hope prompt us all to how we can better live out our faith in the midst of culture.
Prayers for Engaging Reality
Sovereign Lord, What can we affirm as good about this aspect of culture?
Sovereign Lord, What concerns surround this aspect of culture?