When a chef makes a soup, he gathers all the ingredients, prepares them (peels, cuts, chops, etc.), assembles them, adds them to a liquid, seasons the mixture, and cooks it all together until the flavors infuse and mingle. How these components come together to influence the whole, under the guided hand of the chef, is what makes a great soup (plus “a little love” if Mom is the cook).
However, too much salt or too little salt can spoil the dish. The imbalance of a strong ingredient, like an onion, can overpower the more delicate flavors and leave the soup pungent and not pleasing. It’s the same with our culture.
Culture is the “soup” in which we live. It is the beliefs, customs, perspectives, ideology, religion, language, art, fashion, music, art, and behaviors of a particular people. Each of these ingredients comes together to affect the whole mixture. Some of the influence is good and some not so good. It’s our world, our town, our community, our school, our world. However, beyond the characteristics of a particular group of people, beyond just an environment, culture is the people. Without the people, there is no culture. It’s like the ingredients in soup: some of the people are “carrots,” some are “peas,” some “potatoes.” Each shapes, influences, and affects the culture in one way or another through his beliefs and behavior. Every person is part of culture, and you are too.
A lot is being said these days about the need to confront culture. It is, for many, a battle cry of warning about the negative influence that culture is having on us. The perspective is that negative influences have “ruined the soup.” The truth is, since it is people that make up culture, it is the people that have been corrupted. But, unlike soup, we can’t just dump it and start over. There is too much at risk. At risk is the eternal life of all those individuals who have been spoiled by the influence of sin. Whereas we, as God’s people, stand opposed to sin and its destructive influence, we have also been given, by Christ, the responsibility of making a positive impact on the world in which we live.
We are to be “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). We have been charged by the Creator to help “fix the soup” through our teaching , example, and influence. To do that, we may need to rethink our traditional approach to “confronting” the problem. Confront is defined as “to face in hostility or defiance; to oppose; to present for acknowledgment, contradiction, etc.” (Dictionary.com). We must find a way to stand against the wickedness and yet offer a helping hand to those people who are caught up in it. For us to accomplish that, we are going to have to:
Implore, not Ignore
Culture cannot be ignored first of all, because we live within it. It is constantly at the front door asking to come in. Whether we like it or not, or think so or not, we are part of the culture. Secondly, we cannot ignore the damaging and damning affects that some of the world’s beliefs are having on people; young and old, rich and poor, men and women all at risk because sin is present in our world. Our objective must be to implore, to beg, to plead and to reason with those in our world to a more positive way, a way that is better in this life and has eternal reward in the next. We live in the world, but we must also call, with the Gospel, those in the world out of the darkness and lovingly invite them into the marvelous light of Christ (1 Peter 2:9).
Engage, not Enrage
We battle against the forces of wickedness. Every day, with the Word of God as our weapon and the strength of Christ behind us, we meet the enemy. But, we must not forget the prisoners of that war that we have been sent to save. We are not just about changing culture; we are about changing lives. To win the battle and to lose the soul is defeat. We can be ready to fight, but we cannot be those who are just looking for a fight. It’s about engaging people, not enraging them. It’s not just about “being right;” it’s about being righteous and showing that righteousness to others. We have to love and care about the people. We have to use every means possible to bring them to Christ. That doesn’t mean that what we say won’t make some angry; they were angry with Christ when he only offered hope. But, we want to show the same kind love that He showed (John 3:16-21).
Comfort, not Condemn
A world without Christ is a world already condemned. It is a world full of people who are without hope. Our job is to bring the hope of salvation. It’s easy to say that the soup stinks; it’s a whole different thing to do something to make it better. We should show compassion on those who are suffering, console those that are hurting, and counsel those who are confused with the only real comfort that there is––Jesus Christ. We’ll have to leave the safe confines of our homes and church buildings to walk among the people. We’ll put ourselves at risk on the battlefield. We’ll have to love the unlovable, help the undeserving, and serve those who are lowest in the world, because Christ did that for us (Romans 5:8).
It is true that we can be shaped as individuals by worldly influences, but we have an opportunity to make a significant impact on the world as well. We are God’s ingredients, which He, like a master chef, is using to change the soup of the world into something pleasing to Him. We are here for a purpose. That purpose is to live out our faith in such a way as to bring glory to God and reach a world that so desperately needs to have a relationship with Jesus. No soup that is overwhelmed by an offensive ingredient is remedied by removing the good ingredients. We won’t change our culture by removing ourselves from it. We will only change it when we take our proper and influential place within it. There’s no good soup without you.
By Wayne Roberts
Wayne Roberts works as a minister in California and travels around the country with his wife to teach their “His Shoes, Her Shoes” marriage seminars.
This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of “Think” magazine.