As we seek to follow Jesus into the world, one of the ways we can find guidance about where He is leading us is by looking to culture.
Christians often ignore culture because we think that since this world is under the control of the devil, culture also must be under his control, and therefore, just as Satan is evil, culture is evil as well. So in many cases, churches reject culture as having anything to say to us about how to follow Jesus and where He might be leading.
The Holy Spirit in Culture
Theologically and practically, this is a grave mistake. The Holy Spirit is not only at work in Christians, but is also at work in the world. He is guiding history, governments, and even people who are the sworn enemies of God.
By watching and observing culture and history, we can see the wind of God moving upon our times, and join with Him in His efforts. We cannot see the wind, but we can see the leaves blow and the waves form.
Too often the church is busily trying to rake up leaves into nice orderly piles, while the gale force winds of the Holy Spirit are intent on scatting them all over the yard. If we learn to watch where the wind blows in culture, and then move with it, we will find much more success and progress in our missional endeavors.
And just like we cannot see the wind but we can see the effect of the wind, so the effects of the Spirit of God upon culture can often be viewed in places like movies, music, literature, art, and politics.
When gospel-related themes about justice, peace, and equality are raised in the various elements of culture, the church may suspect that these issues did not rise solely out of the hearts and minds of unregenerate people, but were created by the gentle breezes of the Spirit upon all people in our society.
Culture often hears what the church does not.
The Missing Element in Culture
Yet there is one thing that the culture will not include in their calls for justice, peace, and equality which only the church can add: the centrality of Jesus and the example of the cross.
The church that learns from culture can in turn seek to influence and redeem culture by being something the world can never be: Jesus Christ in the world.
Culture often gets condemned by Christians because although the culture raises issues of justice, peace, and equality, the motivations and end results of their attempts at achieving such goals usually only results in greater injustice, war, and inequality.
So the church can affirm and follow the Spirit-led stances of culture while providing for the world what it lacks: self-sacrificing love for our enemies, truth telling in all situations, honor for the weak and poor, and all other Christlike characteristics which will never be practiced by culture alone.