Confronting or Conforming?
In Mark 2:21-22 Jesus responded to His critics as to why His disciples violated the culturally accepted way of doing things. He said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
With these two parables, Jesus explained that His Kingdom would not fit the cultural norms of the Jews. His Kingdom would demand new forms and practices which were not contained in the Jewish cultural norms of the day. As Kingdom leaders fulfill their mission they will introduce the Kingdom of God into a culture along with it will come new values and practices. This is normal, good, and inevitable. Change will come. But, our desire is that the change will be rooted in biblical, Kingdom values and practices, and not Western, post-modern, or even the latest leadership guru’s best practices or values.
The guiding principle would seem to be this: we should strive to make Jesus and the Bible the basis of our leadership and the only stumbling block if the message is to be challenged.
In instances where Kingdom values or practices violate the cultural values or norms, we must hold fast to the biblical truth and accept the resulting opposition. This does not mean we should flaunt our convictions, especially if we know they are likely to cause adverse reactions. We must be sensitive as we take our stand, so that the opposition we face is an opposition to Christ and the Kingdom, not to us. This presents us with an opportunity to see God demonstrate His power and grace in spite of cultural barriers and push-back.
In areas where there is no clear biblical precedent, we should yield to the cultural norm so as not to cause an offense over a “side issue” (such as paying temple taxes or whether or not to celebrate certain holidays – see the previous two blogs).
All of these decisions will require wisdom from God. Ask for it and you will receive it!
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5