If you take the culture and our role in it seriously, and as a Bible-believing Christian I hope you do, then there’s a lot to be concerned about. Specifically in America, we’ve witnessed the church go from having substantial influence, to the cultural powers that are doing everything they can to eliminate our cultural influence once and for all. Not only that, it’s happening at light speed. This rapid, often hostile, change has also lead to our culture growing increasingly dark morally as it attempts to shed any remaining vestiges of God and His Word. This has left many in the church attempting to figure out how we navigate this reality and remain faithful as Christians. Maybe the most well-known of these attempts is Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, but there have been multiple other options presented, all attempting to point the way.
The reason there’s so much dialogue about these options is because it appears we will not be changing course any time soon. At points our cultural direction may temporarily slow down, but we’re still moving in the same direction. Who knows what God might do, but it seems naively optimistic to think anything other than increasing darkness and hostility awaits us. So what do we as Christians do? What is our response?
Well, in attempting to answer, I’d like to add another option to the fray: the SEAL Option. Actually, I say that tongue in cheek. I’m not really adding another option. Rather, I want to address the motivation that must drive whatever option we choose and discuss. That motivation must be biblical, and more specifically, driven by our calling. Unfortunately, many typical responses are less than biblical with wrong motivations.
“If we think the answer to our increasingly dark culture is politics we are sadly mistaken and not thinking biblically.”As our culture grows darker and more hostile one typical Christian response is to run and hide by insulating ourselves and our kids from the influence of the culture. We only hang out with Christians; we only go to Christian schools or homeschool; we only listen to Christian music; we do whatever we can to create a Christian bubble. Is that bad? Fighting for holiness is not. Alienating ourselves from the surrounding culture is. That is an unbiblical response with the wrong motivation.
Another typical response is to focus on cultural transformation. As society crumbles around us we’ll do what we can to renew fallen structures through various social means. Is that wrong? Of course the church can and even should be involved in righting wrongs in our cities. But if we are only doing this, only loving in the name of Jesus, I would argue it is still an unbiblical, or at the very least an incomplete response, with the wrong motivation.
Yet another typical response is to redouble our efforts politically. If we could just get the right person, the right party back in power then we’ll be able to take this country back for Jesus. Is this wrong? Certainly it is not wrong to take politics seriously, or to even pursue political power. But if we think the answer to our increasingly dark culture is politics we are sadly mistaken and not thinking biblically. Even more, if we think our job is to change the veneer of our culture through political influence then again, our motivation is way off.
Unlike the previous three, there is one other typical response that has no redeeming quality. That is being distracted. Living for our comfort, our careers, this life, all in the name of God, but not really being concerned with all this other stuff because we’re too distracted with building our own kingdoms. No part of that mentality is biblical or can be justified. You are not here to live your life for you in Jesus’ name. You are here to die to self and live for Christ in everything. I hope that is clear to any serious student of Scripture.
But notice with the first three responses I did not say they are categorically wrong. Aspects of them may be right if they are undergirded by a biblical motivation. What is this biblical motivation then? That gets us back to the SEAL Option.
The Walking Dead
I mentioned the SEAL Option is tongue in cheek, but in reality it’s no laughing matter. It’s no laughing matter because we live amongst the walking dead, not unlike the popular TV series.
I read an article that said 105 die globally every minute. Think about that. While that’s crazy, from a Christian perspective it gets crazier because we know death isn’t the end. Every person dies physically and then will spend eternity either in the presence of Christ or in eternal hell away from God. How many of those 105 people do you think enter into the presence of the Lord? Probably a minority.
“What’s truly frightening is if we could somehow see into the spiritual realm, we would see a constant stream of souls descending into hell all day everyday.”
You see, the reality is, we live among the walking dead. There are people around us every day, the majority of people around us and around the world, who are dead spiritually. That means they will die physically, 105 people every minute. And if they have not repented and given their lives to Christ they will spend eternity in hell, the second death.
Our cultures increasing darkness and hostility toward us isn’t what’s truly frightening. What’s truly frightening is if we could somehow see into the spiritual realm, we would see a constant stream of souls descending into hell all day everyday. Yes, the cultural change we are experiencing is difficult. But regardless of our response to it, our ultimate motivation must be to fulfill our calling by Christ who purchased us to live our lives making disciples of the nations. That calling never changes regardless of what is taking place in the culture. The means we employ to gain an ear may change, but the underlying motivation of making disciples never changes. That is our mission.
Our mission and motivation is not to insulate ourselves and our family from scary cultural influences. It’s not to transform the culture temporally, but not take saving people eternally seriously. It’s not to take our culture back through political means. Even if we pursue those as part of our mission, the ultimate motivation must be an intense desire to make disciples and proclaim and live the gospel of Christ so dead people can be made alive in Christ. And we do that by having the mentality of a Navy SEAL.
Send Me to the Darkness
I watched a show recently about the Navy SEAL Unit Task Force Bruiser that was in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. At the time Ramadi was considered to be the most dangerous city in the world. The Taliban completely owned it. The conventional forces employed there fought bravely, but had not made much headway in pushing the enemy back. As a result that city was a living nightmare. It’s not where anyone would ever want to be. Not anyone but a SEAL anyway. And that’s who was called in. Task Force Bruiser was sent in to take Ramadi over by pushing back the enemy street by street, house by house.
What was jarring to hear, though, was how many of the SEALs interviewed about that mission said something like, “That’s where I wanted to be my whole life. We wanted to be in the darkest, scariest, most evil places that no one wanted to go to. That’s what we lived for. That’s where we thrive.”
I heard that and thought it was incredibly awesome. But then I immediately thought, that should be me. That should be us. That’s how we should be living and viewing this life as Christians.
As our culture grows darker and scarier and increasingly hostile, and the enemy seems to be having its way, we don’t run and hide. We don’t insulate ourselves. We run into the darkness with the light of the gospel. As the church we should look for opportunities to go to the scariest, darkest places and snatch people out of the fire, to push back the darkness, to boldly go and make disciples, person by person, heart by heart.
“We must remain faithful in our calling to make disciples no matter the cost for the glory of Christ. ”
None of us enjoy watching our culture head in the direction it is. Being hated and suffering is no fun. But in some ways what is happening in our culture is a blessing because it’s waking us up out of our stupor. It’s realigning our lives with God’s Word. And it’s refocusing us to live for the glorious calling He has given us.
I’m not Pollyannish about this. There will be casualties. This is for real. We’re playing for keeps. But in the end, we know who wins. The light vanquishes the dark. We can’t control the details of that. We can’t make people become disciples of Christ. Only God can. But we must remain faithful in our calling to make disciples no matter the cost for the glory of Christ. Eternal souls are at stake and we have been called to the front lines.
Thinking Christians should consider the Benedict Option and others as we seek to remain faithful in these dark times. But whatever option we choose, our ultimate aim must be saving dead people and making them disciples of Christ. I encourage you, don’t run from the dark. Don’t “fear the one who kills the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Run into the darkness full of the love and grace of Christ in complete trust of Him, not counting your life “of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). That’s the SEAL Option.