Why is the Culture Dark and Decaying?
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house”
Christians in the West often express concern about the direction in which our culture is moving. Whether we look at government, entertainment, literature, education, law, or any number of other things, we see the foundations crumbling. Christian books and blogs, sermons and seminars, repeatedly address this fact, but more often than not we focus only on the forces actively pushing the culture in directions opposed to God and His law. We note the impact, for example, of post-Enlightenment philosophies on today’s thinkers. We note the devastating impact of the sexual revolution on generation after generation of the young. In other words, we tend to look only at what they are doing. All of this is necessary and important, of course, but if it remains our sole focus, it can cause us to overlook another potential contributing factor.
Christians are called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be salt and light in the world, but what happens when Christians cease to be salt and light? When the culture is rotting and dark, does it ever occur to us that we might be part of the problem? Salt is by nature a preservative, but if it loses its basic qualities, its saltiness, it preserves nothing and should be thrown out. Light by nature disperses darkness, but if the light is put under a basket or otherwise quenched, the darkness spreads.
There have been and are many dark and decaying cultures in the world. There have been and are faithful Christians in many of them, Christians who have acted and are acting as salt and light in very difficult circumstances. That faithfulness does not guarantee that the darkness of those cultures will change overnight or ever in our lifetimes. Some cultures may remain dark and decaying until the return of Christ. But when such Christians faithfully set their light on a stand in the darkness, those who are lost in the darkness are shown the way out whether they follow it or not.
What about dark and decaying cultures where a significant percentage of people claim to be Christians? In those cultural contexts, could part of the problem be with the Church itself not being salt and light? We are all aware of the fact that many professing Christians seldom read and meditate on Scripture. That many professing Christians seldom pray or attend corporate worship. That many professing Christians also profess theological views that are antithetical to Christianity. That many professing Christians are indistinguishable from unbelievers in terms of their ethical opinions and practices. When so many professing Christians remain functionally ignorant of Scripture, the fundamental teachings of their faith, and allow the world to dictate their ideas and behavior, should it really come as a surprise when the culture goes dark? When we become indistinguishable from the world, we cease to be a light in the darkness. We become part of the darkness.
As long as so much popular Christian thinking and behavior is shaped by the world rather than by Scripture, nothing we do or say is going to stop the spread of decay and darkness. It will not matter who we elect. It will not matter what causes or movements we support or oppose. It will not matter how much and how angrily we Tweet. If the Church ceases to be salt and light, everything else we do is building sand castles as a wave approaches. Each of us needs to examine his or her own heart. Each of us who claims to be a follower of Christ needs to ask himself whether he understands what that truly entails. If we are not by God’s grace seeking individual and corporate holiness, as God commands (1 Pet. 1:16), we will not be salt and light.
The Church needs to be the Church. That means the faithful preaching of the Gospel, prayer, and administration of the sacraments. Individual Christians need to be Christians. They need to be actual followers of Christ rather than followers of the world. When we are scrambling over each other to see which of us can display the most works of the flesh and sins of the tongue in a given day, we are not following Christ, and we need to repent.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The lost in every culture need to see this light. This light is their only hope. Because we are united to Christ, He calls us the light of the world too. If the culture is growing darker, we might need to take a look in the mirror. If there’s not enough light to see the mirror, then maybe we have become part of the problem, and maybe we need to repent just as much as that unbeliever who is making us so angry.
Whether we repent or not, whether the cultures in which we live move further into darkness or not, Christ will ultimately be victorious. The nations can rage all they want, but it will not change that fact. Those who have trusted and followed Jesus Christ will follow Him into a new heavens and new earth where there will be no more darkness and decay. Those who have not followed Him, but have followed the world instead, will find themselves in eternal darkness.