I remember my friend Scott Rae, a professor at Biola University, telling a story about a group of teachers who were about to volunteer for Vacation Bible School. The pastor brought them to the front of the church and said, “We’re going to pray for these people who are doing ministry this week.” On the way down from the stage, one lady said, “Hey, I’ve been teaching in a public school for 20 years, and no one’s ever prayed for me.” It’s like we have certain jobs we consider sacred and other jobs we consider secular. But the whole world belongs to God. There’s not a sacred-secular divide in professions or occupations. All ground is holy ground for the Christian, and so all callings, therefore, are sacred.
In Acts 17, Paul speaks to the Epicureans and the Stoics. In the middle of describing who God is, he makes the remarkable statement that the God who created everything determines the exact times that people live and the boundaries of their growing place. In other words, this transcending God is concerned with time and place. Galatians 4 says at just the right time, Jesus Christ came. God has called us not only to be Christian in the world, but to be Christian in the part of the world in which you find yourself. We have to settle on that because we need to decide now the scope of our Christian responsibility before we face the increasing cultural pressure.
I think the biggest temptation for any group of people, and this generation of young people is no different, is to define ourselves culturally. While we are responsible for living in a time and place, the Christian should live out of a larger narrative. Not the cultural narrative, but the biblical narrative. We shouldn’t try to figure out, “How do random Bible verses support my understanding of the world that I got from my culture?” But we should try to understand how our culture fits in the scriptural narrative of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. The temptation for all of us is to live out of our cultural story and decorate it with Bible verses.
We see that temptation manifesting itself in the collision between a religious vs. a sexual understanding of the world. The sexual understanding of the world, which seems to dominate every part of our culture, has led us to embrace relativism.
The sexual revolution has been going on for a long time. But the overtaking of the sexual revolution as our understanding of the world has happened dramatically in the last few generations. The current generation isn’t causing it; it has inherited it. It’s the water that these fish swim in. They don’t know any different, and that’s one of the big challenges in terms of their understanding.
Still, I am encouraged by that generation for two reasons. I’m encouraged for them because of believers and mentors God is raising up all over America to teach them. This generation is hungry. They’re open to competing ideas; they’re open to dialogue. They want to fix the problems in the world, or at least be part of the solution.
The second thing that encourages me about this generation is that the students I teach are very, very serious about their faith. They’re serious about how their faith intersects with the world and how the Gospel demands hopefulness, not despair. I think the last couple generations spent a lot of time looking at the ground we lost culturally. This generation is doing more of what we read in Jeremiah: planting vineyards and living for the good of the city. That has to be done with an understanding that the world belongs to God. We live our lives, as Calvin said, before God, so everything we do is an act of worship. You have to do everything well. Life takes a lot of everyday, mundane things. These are things that are necessary parts of our lives, and we don’t want any of them cordoned off from the lordship of Jesus.
Listen to John Stonestreet’s lastest “Culture Talk” from the Collegiate Academy of Alliance Defending Freedom on The World and Everything in It: