Tomorrow we will gather to worship God with the church. It is a rather ordinary looking bunch; men, women and children, old and young, who are from different places and different cultures; a bit cosmopolitan, with those who are of Sri Lankan, African American, Chilean, Korean, Polish, and Anglo-Saxon heritages. We do many of the same activities everyone else does in our society. An early Christian letter written by an unknown author famously describes it this way, “Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech.” In one way, we Christians are fully recognizable in our culture. Perhaps the most obvious is the English language we speak. It has the same grammar—more or less—and idioms that are generally known in the United States. A Christian may say “What’s up?” or “A day late and a dollar short” and only the most recent immigrants are perplexed. The same is true for the songs we sing in the church and the musical patterns they contain which are familiar in our western culture. Christianity can take its place in societies and cultures with relative ease.
It has been observed that Christianity is highly adaptable to the various cultures of this world. One can find Christian congregations in nearly every culture, even the ones that outlaw Christianity. The Christian faith reaches across class boundaries, political affiliations, race and education. However, that is not the end of it for the followers of Jesus Christ. We do not just ride along with the culture imitating it. There is transformation. When someone becomes a Christian they must change. Nothing will remain the same anymore. It is difficult to comprehend this when the world around us says we are fine just the way we are. This is a deceptive message because while we may agree with what the world tells us, we do want to change in some ways; like our weight, knowledge, relationships, and so on. We are not as “fine” as we think we are. In fact we have become twisted and corrupted forms of what God created us to be. Jesus Christ transforms his followers from what we were into God’s good and holy purpose for us.
How then do we explain the adaptability and the transformation of Christianity? We explain it with Jesus Christ. Scripture bears witness that he is the eternal God who became man and dwelt among us. Without changing his divinity he assumed our humanity in all its aspects; physical, spiritual, cultural and everything else. He adapted himself to our human life, but he did not do this to affirm it the way it is and allow us to remain what we have been. Christ assumed our humanity in order to transform it—everything about it. This would include the thoughts, words, deeds and desires of our own person. Jesus Christ also transforms our moral behavior, sexual desires and relationships with others. Beyond ourselves it extends to human culture like language, music, education, and politics. Christ’s transformation even extends to the church and its worship. Christ transforms Christian worship from merely adapting to the forms and content of cultures to having its own distinct character. Those who follow Jesus Christ must be changed personally, morally, culturally and religiously. After asserting the adaptability of Christians to the culture, the Letter to Diogentus continues, “Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens.”
Grace and Peace