Have you ever considered your own personal impact on culture? (Go ahead and think about it. I’ll wait.)
When we think of those who impact culture, we think of celebrities. And there are others who are determined to influence culture; they seek to make a name for themselves by being an Instagram influencer. And it seems to work. Apparently, if you post enough pictures of yourself, people will start to follow you on Instagram; then others will see you have some followers and they assume: “He’s got a following. He must be important. I’ll follow him too.” And pretty soon you’ve got a massive following, so if you post a picture of yourself wearing a colander on your head, there’s a sudden demand for colanders.
Go ahead and try it. As for me, I’ve got all of 293 Instagram followers, which surprises me because I’ve had this account for years and I’ve only posted eight photos. (I should get out more. Or buy a colander.)
There is a far better way to impact culture. But let me start with one of Jesus’s parables.
“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’
“But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down’ ” (Luke 13:6-9).
Pretty straightforward. A fruitless tree meets someone willing to cultivate the soil in hopes of making it thrive. What I want us to see in this parable is the key thing the vineyard worker would do: he would cultivate the soil.
The word culture comes from the word cultivate. In Middle English, a cultivated piece of land was a cultured land. The landscape we live in these days is our culture—and it’s not healthy.
But we can change the culture—the cultivated landscape—around us. The vineyard worker had hopes that he could renew the fig tree by cultivating the soil—changing the culture—where the tree was planted. Anyone who has ever worked in a flower bed understands this. Gardeners change the culture of a plant by loosening packed soil, pulling weeds, fertilizing, watering, and repeating.
When we live lives that point to Christ, we’re impacting the culture around us. When we “pull the weeds” of sin from our own lives and seek to live lives that please Christ first, we are touching the culture around us. I can’t pull the weeds out of someone else’s life, but by my own obedience to the lordship of Christ, I show what a “well cultivated” life looks like.
In his brief letter to Titus, Paul gave him instructions on discipling those who were servants.
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:9-10, NIV, emphasis added).
The purpose behind these instructions was not simply to make good servants, but to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. When we do what Christ calls us to do, not only do we experience the abundant life, but we draw the attention of others—and we’re drawing them to Christ!
That changes their culture.
The culture of the Roman Empire was not ultimately changed through invading armies. It was changed as followers of Christ influenced others. The gospel spread, lives were changed, and the culture changed.
We can do the same as we live obedient, grace-filled lives that honor Christ. That’s a far better way to impact the culture than wearing a colander.
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