Today, America is not changing from Christian to secular but from secular to pagan. This is the culture in which we now live. So, what are we as Christians supposed to do? How can we live in such a way that we transform the world instead of simply conforming to it?
We begin by understanding our history. In the first through third centuries, the early church didn’t have individual liberty, and the Romans certainly weren’t bastions of family values. Yet faithful believers flipped the entire Roman world right-side up in three hundred years—and they didn’t even have Facebook, Instagram, mega-church buildings, book deals, or cell phones! It wasn’t what they did but who they were that brought the world to Jesus and birthed an era of freedom that we enjoy today.
Ultimately, it’s not just what we say but how we live that will bring transformation to this culture. Christians in the early church were called followers of “the Way.” It was the way they went about their daily lives that marked them as distinct and separate from all others. It wasn’t conferences or concerts but a community of believers living in a way that literally blew peoples’ minds and created an appetite in them for the Savior.
Christians in the first century fully embraced the Scriptures that commanded, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17) Though believers lived in a pagan culture they were not of the culture. They refused to participate in unrighteousness of any kind, including emperor worship, sexual perversion, child sacrifice, etc. They remained distinctly separate from the world.
We have described this separation for believers as being like chocolate chips in the cookie dough of culture—we mix in, but we do not blend in. We keep our distinct form, even when the heat is turned up. When making chocolate chip cookie dough, you start with butter, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, etc., and blend them together. If you stop and take a spoonful of the batch, you won’t be able to distinguish which ingredient is which, because it all just tastes like cookie dough. Yet when you mix in the chocolate chips and take a bite, you know exactly when you’ve bitten into one of those morsels of goodness! You see, chocolate chips mix in, but they don’t blend in. They never lose their distinct form. You always know when you’ve bitten into a chocolate chip—even after they come out of the oven.
Christians in the early church lived like this. They refused to let the world into their minds and hearts, thus, others were attracted to them. They transformed the world—they did not conform to it. (Romans 12:2)
Today, it’s vital for Christians to fully serve Jesus and be separate from the world again. There must be a marked difference between faithful transformers and fruitless conformers. Trying to attract the world by being like the world is the opposite from our heritage as believers. If we’re going to transform our nation today, we need to mix in to the batch of culture but never blend in. Our early church brothers and sisters did their part—now it’s time for us to do ours.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)