We live in a world surrounded by individualism. America is noticeably defined by what we wear and eat—where we live and the cars we own. You buy coffee at Starbucks, your neighbor 'settles' for less by buying coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Your friend lives in a rustic loft in the city, you live in a simple townhouse in the suburbs. You buy clothes from Target, your co-worker shops at H&M.
As people, we compare and contrast our comforts built out of our consumerism because we believe our existence is defined and driven by such. In fact, it's almost as if we put our identity in what we wear and consume. To be clear, buying coffee, owning a nice car, and living in a good neighborhood aren't things that are bad or sinful. The question is this: What will we do with those things? How can we have gospel fluency in our culture?
Where the City and the Gospel Intersect
Tim Keller says, "The early church was strikingly different from the culture around it in this way—the pagan society was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body. A pagan gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body. And the Christians came along and gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money." God calls us not to avoid culture, but to be kingdom-building participants as we experience it, in order that we see it redeemed by Jesus our Redeemer. But how can it be redeemed if we let culture define us rather than live in light of what the Redeemer already has created and declared the culture to be? The Bible is abundantly clear about Whom everything belongs to in Job 41:11, "Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine."
Our lives should look like they acknowledge that all things belong to God. Instead of caring where we buy our coffee, what if just bought coffee (anywhere) for a new attendee at one of our churches as a means of cultivating discipleship and a gospel-centered friendship? What if you bought clothes for the child of the single mom who is the barista at the local coffee shop where you study every week? We participate in culture because we long for something deeper than it. We can't pursue the deeper things of God if we only pursue our own individuality. People were created to live in community, not autonomy (Hebrew 10:24-25). Were we purely create to only be in community with people? Surely not. God created us for His own glory and we bear the image of the One who constructed us. Since God has created us for His own glory and good pleasure, our need for community points to a greater need in us: The need to be redeemed by the saving work of Christ. Then, and only then, can we have true understanding of the deep-seeded darkness that exists within all of humanity. We need don't need to lose individualism because there is some other band-aid or quick fix we can slap over the issue of our fallen nature. We don't need tp lose it in exchange for community. We need to lose it in exchange for community because community is where Christ-honoring disciples are made.
The problem isn't that Jesus' love for His people somehow waivers based off what we do or don't do, or how many people we clothe or how many cups of coffee we buy for our neighbors. The issue is that our view of culture tends to become centered on ourselves rather than theological and God-centered. If our doctrine of God (who He is) doesn't marry together with a community oriented worship of God, we end up storing our treasures on earth rather than in heaven. All of life is worship and all of life is God's.
FOR THE CITY PODCAST