Culture shock is a feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. It is most commonly experienced by people who immigrate or visit a new country or strange social environment. It may leave one with a feeling of lostness; of being surrounded, suppressed and depressed.
But, you don’t have to leave your country to experience culture shock. Sometimes all you have to do is watch the news, read the paper or walk through a mall to make you feel lost or distant; like a stranger in your own land.
This homegrown type of culture shock is complicated when we reject change and hold rigidly to by-gone days. Truthfully, morals, values and traditions may have been more common and virtuous in earlier times. But in retrospect the good-ole days were not always that good.
When we look back and long for earlier days instead of making the most of our time for God during this age, we will miss God’s purpose for us here and now. It is especially problematic if we use the corruption of our culture or the immoralities of our times to excuse our lack of influence for Christ in this generation. God has us here in this day, to reach these people with compassion and truth.
David is a great example of ministering to people during difficult, immoral days. Most people know about David’s triumph over the giant, Goliath. But listen to the way Paul summarized David’s life: : “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers…” (Acts 13:36). David accomplished his purpose by serving his own generation doing the will of God, then died fulfilled. Could this be said of you? Are you serving your own generation by the will of God?
If Christian people, because of the sinful condition of mankind and immoralities of our days, withdraw from contact, it will mean abandoning the very people we are supposed to reach with the saving gospel. This would be like medical doctors refusing to treat people who had the plague. Their task is difficult and dangerous, but it is their life purpose.
No matter what the condition of society and the world, we are commanded, as was Titus, to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). The true Christian avoids and denies ungodliness and worldly desires, while living sensibly, righteously and godly in the present. You can live holy for Christ in this ungodly world.
In 1 Chronicles 12, the writer is summarizes the number of people and strength of the twelve tribes of Israel. But when he comes to describe Issachar, he writes that they were “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” (verse 32).
They possessed particular insight that enabled them to understand the times in which they lived. It says a lot when someone understands the seasons of their lives and the signs of the times. We need to understand the times in which we live, with knowledge of what we are to do, in light of our days and our culture. I wish that we, like Issachar, could understand and interpret our generation so that we could treat them effectively, reach them with the gospel, and teach them the Word of God.
The meaning of “culture” is the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by a group of people in a particular place or time. It is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characerize it.
It is not our aim to change the culture. Our enemy is not the culture. The culture is just the typical ways people live and pass values to their children and others around them. Our purpose is to know the culture so we can communicate to people within it. But knowing the culture and communicating to people in it means we must:
- Not conform to the culture.
- Not fall in love with the culture.
- Not try to repair the culture.
Neither the Lord Jesus, nor Paul, the apostles or early churches sought to change the cultures of their world. God has not called us to change the culture, but to communicate the living Word of God in such a powerful way that people within the culture are changed. The only biblical way to change the culture is to change the people within the culture. And, though we cannot change the culture, God can, through the power of Christ and the application of His Word.
The power of God can change the culture, one sinner at a time. Paul reminded the Corinthians of the power of Christ to change – after he names 10 kinds of sins characteristic to their culture (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)—he says, “Such were some of you: but you were washed,but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God” (verse 11). The saving, cleansing, sanctifying, justifying power of Jesus and His Spirit changed the Corinthians, and it can change people immersed in our culture today!
The aim of Christians, indeed the purpose of churches, is to reach our generation with the saving power of Christ through saving faith in Him alone. Our prayer should be that God would raise up spiritual leaders who are intent on reaching their generation for Christ in salvation and service. There is so much to do serving Christ in the present that we do not have the luxury of living in the past, or of hiding from the culture. With God’s help let us confront the culture in the power of the Spirit, with the gospel claims of Christ and the truth of Scripture. Maybe that is the best way to defeat culture shock.