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Culture Shock

August 30, 2017

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

I love the scene in the movie version of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Lucy encounters the faun, Mr. Tumnus. As Lucy extends her hand to Mr. Tumnus, he curiously asks, “What do you do with it?”

“You shake it,” Lucy replies, to which the faun exclaims, “Why?!”

In today’s global society, awkward moments like Lucy’s are not uncommon. Bumping into people whose customs, greetings, and language are unlike ours creates off-balance doses of “culture shock.” On a trip to West Africa, in spite of feeling welcomed by the warmth of the people there, my wife Martie and I became keenly aware that we were different. The differences were many. But two stand out in my memory. The accepted custom was for men to have multiple wives and to feed their wives extravagantly. The reason? If your wife was plump, you were viewed as prosperous and successful because you made enough money to provide plenty of food for your extensive family. Needless to say, our way of thinking, living, and behaving was radically different. I don’t know if we could ever have felt at home there.

Which makes me wonder:  If we are “new creation” people—citizens of heaven whose patterns of thought and behavior are distinctly different—why do we feel so at home with the values and lifestyles of the fallen systems of this world? Why are we so likely to lean toward greed instead of generosity? Why does self-centeredness instead of servanthood still have its grip on our attitudes? Why does pride easily set up residence in our hearts, while Christ’s humility seems so awkward and foreign? Why do we fit in so well, when, as Paul says, our real citizenship is in heaven? (Philippians 3:20).  If we are truly “new creation” people, there should be some instinctive culture shock when our hearts and minds start entertaining old creation thoughts and actions.

Being new creations in Christ means that we are different, different from the dead-ended ways of the condemned world. The thoughts and attitudes of the heavenly and earthly kingdoms are radically at odds. Paul makes the issue clear when he writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you can test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Jesus gave His life to redesign us from the inside out. When we express our newness in Him, people who intersect our lives get a refreshing glimpse of something wonderfully different, a taste of heaven on earth.

Go ahead. Surprise someone today with some heavenly culture shock!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. What changes occurred when you first became a new creation?
  • In what ways would people who know you best say that you resemble the heavenly kingdom, or for that matter the earthly one? Be specific.
  • What old world patterns most often find their way into your thinking, attitudes, and actions?
  • What are the new creation realities that should replace those old ways and make you truly different?
  • Jot down at least two ways that you can pursue life as a new creation. Make a specific plan for implementation.
  • Ask the Lord to give you a culture shock opportunity with someone today.