“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Culture, n. The act of, or any labor or means employed for, training, disciplining, or refining the moral and intellectual nature of man; as, the culture of the mind.–Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Recently, one of my “friends” on Facebook posted the following conversation between his younger brother and himself. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty, as the case may be). This witty exchange made me smile on a number of levels. I hope that you will enjoy it as I did.
“Today’s typical exchange between Self and Lucas:
Lucas: Let’s play our game.
Self: Wait, you haven’t washed your hands. You were eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Those are greasy.
Lucas: [Washes off his hands and then wipes them on my sleeve.]
Self: You belong to the unwashed.
Self: The unwashed masses.
Lucas: And you’re what, the drain called conscience?
Self: I am the drain called culture.
Lucas: I hate to tell you this, big brother, but you died out years ago.
Self: You probably don’t even like good music.
Lucas: [Presses a play button on his computer keyboard. An audiobook comes on.]
Self: [Raises the eyebrow]
Lucas: That’s Tom Bombadil!”
(Used with permission)
Any one who has sons probably has a vivid mental image of these two brothers. Most boys, and even many men, find the task of hand washing to be a bit of a nuisance. Boys and mess are generally on a first name basis. Clearly, Lucas did not want to be bothered wasting his time on the menial task of hand washing when there were more important things to do, like playing games.
The older brother did what older brothers are supposed to do: help their younger brothers navigate the treacherous waters from boyhood to manhood. And yes, something as simple as washing your hands when they are dirty (or greasy, in this case) is part of that growing up process. The older brother not only acted as his younger brother’s conscience, but also as an agent of culture (see definition of culture above). It is unlikely that Lucas didn’t know that washing his greasy hands was necessary. I can not imagine that the mother of these two young men would not have required that action on many other occasions in their lives; mothers tend to demand these sorts of things. Lucas’ response to his older brother proves that he knew the right course of action when he accused his brother of being the “drain of conscience.”
After reading the above conversation on Facebook, I had hope about something that has been discouraging me quite a bit lately: the lack of “culture” in our culture. The world around us has become increasingly coarse, crude, and crass. Even among the Christians of my acquaintance, it is not unusual for the talk, stories, and jokes to be less than edifying. I expect that behavior from non-Christians; I do not expect it from those of us who profess Jesus Christ as Lord.
There was a very popular phrase a few years back: “What would Jesus do?” As much as I felt that phrase trivialized something I do not believe is trivial, it is a question we must ask ourselves.
When I was young, I was often called “Goody Two-Shoes,” a phrase that has since gone out of favor. Back then, the contempt and derision with which those words were spoken were meant to shame and humiliate me for behaving in a way that was different from that of my peers. I was a “Goody Two-Shoes” back then. I am about to become a “Goody Two-Shoes” again.
I have a difficult time believing that Jesus Christ would have sat around the camp fire with Peter, James, and John telling crude, bawdy jokes about the opposite sex or embarrassing bodily functions. This scenario doesn’t (and shouldn’t) fit our understanding of His nature and character. His life represented all that was refined, good, and unspoiled.
So, if Jesus Christ is to be our example, what are we doing passing along those “off-color” jokes and stories we hear at work and elsewhere. Are we applying the “WWJD” code of behavior to our actions?
As Christians, we are supposed to set an example for our culture. Our language, our talk must be different than those around us. We do not have to mimic the current culture to make our faith “relevant.” We are to become the example, like Jesus, of all that is good and fine and pure; not in a “snooty” or “elitist” way, as if we are better than others, but as an example of what life can and should be like when Jesus Christ has control of our tongue and our lives.
Just as Lucas had to wash his greasy hands in the short vignette above, we need to “clean up our act” as Christians. It takes a concerted effort to turn our thoughts and our speech away from the baseness of our old sinful nature. It is for this reason we must renew our minds with the washing of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our God deserves no less. We are His ambassadors; representatives of His Kingdom on this earth.
Jesus Christ is our Plumb-line.
Jesus Christ is our Standard.
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:13-26 (NKJV)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)
Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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