For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)
If you were called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land, you would no doubt seek to learn as much as possible about that land and its inhabitants. You would want to learn how to speak the language of the people as well as discover their customs, beliefs, etc., so that you could get to know them and communicate effectively with them. How else would you be able to meet their eternal and temporal needs?
In our world today, what is true about ministering in a foreign land is equally as true in our own. As countless theologians, apologists, missiologists, and evangelists have pointed out, if we desire to effectively reach our culture (our very diverse culture) for Christ, we must know the language, customs, beliefs, etc., of the people we’re around everyday.
Yet, we know that behind people’s perceived temporal needs there lurk real and eternal needs that only the Lord Jesus Christ can meet. Irrelevance is not a mark of faithfulness or a virtue to celebrate. I don’t believe that seeking to understand where people are “coming from” spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, emotionally, etc., is necessarily accommodation and compromise. Building relationships, meeting needs, and giving answers that never include the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel emphatically is accommodation and compromise. It was the Apostle Paul who said that he had become all things to all people that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can be certain that he was able to do so without sinning and selling out. Should we not seek to follow in his footsteps?
Called to be Like Issachar
Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants grew to become one of Israel’s twelve tribes. By the time of King David, we are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32, that among the great fighting warriors of Israel were the men of Issachar, who were distinguished by knowing or understanding the times in which they lived and were able to advise Israel accordingly. It was the Lord Jesus who castigated the religious leaders of his day for being able to predict the weather but not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). I believe that God calls godly men and women today to know the times in which they live so that they might provide a faithful witness for Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
I believe godly men and women should help folks view the temporal world in which they live with and through the light of God’s eternal perspective. Whether the focus is theology, worldviews, ethics, culture, the great ideas, Western civilization, peace, justice, economics, etc., I believe godly people are called to provide those in their spheres of influence with biblically faithful, culturally aware, and practically useful wisdom and guidance. The goal should be to lovingly equip those entrusted to their care as well as to faithfully confront unrighteousness and evil with God’s truth. We want vigilant should strive to better represent the Lord Jesus Christ as well as to bear a more faithful witness in their own personal mission field to which they have been called to serve.
Jesus Christ is the Lord over every mission field and we want to communicate that touchstone truth to every man, woman and child in a way that is true, significant and attractive. We can’t save people ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bear witness to our Lord as lovingly, clearly, and faithfully as possible.
Like the men of Issachar, we need to know the times in which we live and effectively, humbly, and respectfully give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope that we have in this world… and in the world to come.
Grace and Truth,