I hear a lot about culture in my life. I live in what is called a melting pot area as we have people from all different nationalities pour into our community on a regular basis. Many people want those moving in to the community to conform to our culture. At work we talk about the culture of our ministry as part of a Catholic Health System. At church we talk about the Kingdom Culture that our congregation desires to operate in fully.
Merriam Webster’s Definition of culture is
a: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or timeb : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
It’s a pretty big standard for such a little word. As I was at church for our prayer meeting, my pastor started talking about culture and I was taken back to a meeting that I had been part of just the week before at work where one of the Sisters (Catholic, not relative) talked about culture. She shared a quote from a coworker that had always stuck with her: “It is only a culture if everyone is doing it.” – Dave Wixson
The quote really caught my attention because, I had recently finished reading a book by John Bevere “Killing Kryptonite.” He talks about the community of believers and gives examples of multiple scriptures that show how practiced sin by some believers can negatively impact many. Mr. Bevere wasn’t talking about holding nonfollowers of Christ accountable to live by Scriptual standards, but of holding those within the body of Christ accountable to not practice sin.
I like to think that I don’t walk in “practiced sin.” However, I can have some strong opinions that can lead to division, at times my grey thinking could lead to heresy (this has recently been pointed out to me), at times I put other things in front of God, and I overeat too often. All of these are mentioned in the Bible as sin or works of the flesh. I’m just one person in a much larger community. That community is a small part of a much larger, Kingdom culture. I never stopped to think about how my behaviors impact those around me that are living in community with me, or the culture at large that I adhere too. Yes, at times I might see my negative attitude be picked up by someone else around me. However, I never thought about someone else truly paying the price (other than Jesus) for my practiced sin.
With that thought in mind, it is a tall order to think about conforming to a Kingdom Culture, or even my work culture. There are areas I fail completely as I mentioned above and days where I just don’t feel like putting forth the effort to pretend all is good. I tend to recluse as much as possible when I’m in that mood. I can put forth the smile of things are okay to those I am serving, but those I serve alongside know when things aren’t okay with me. I can shine brighter when my smile is genuine and my help is sincere.
I realize that true culture comes from unity. Unity of mind and action. Not that everyone does the exact same thing, but that all actions lead to a common goal. Unity in sharing the gifts and talents that have been entrusted without fear, without comparison and without competition. Walking boldly in our strengths and allowing others to pick up where they are strong. Genuine unity comes from a shared belief that the cause, the purpose, the joint venture is worth the impact on my own personal behavior or life to conform to something bigger than myself. It is hard to build unity in a world that is so focused on “my rights”, “my way”, “individuality”, “Self-fulfillment” and “self-growth.” Those are counter-culture, and yet indicative of the society that we live.
True culture means that I am vulnerable enough to let others know where I am struggling. It means that I have to be transparent. I means that I have to walk in close relationship with others. Those things are very difficult for me to do. It goes against the grain of my personality. I am not good at showing weakness. I like privacy. I need alone time.
True culture means accountability. I have to be willing allow others to hold me accountable for living up to the set standard. I can not be offended when someone points out an area where I am falling short. I also have to be willing to hold others accountable in love. I admit I want to be held accountable, but very few people are willing to stand up to my strong personality. As much as I want it, accountability can be hard to hear when it is more than just a confirmation of what God has already brought to heart. And at times, I find it hard to hold others accountable in love because I get the attitude “Why don’t you get it already?” or worse “If you would just do what I said, this would move a lot faster.” Accountability isn’t holding someone to my standard, but to the standards that God has set (Or my workplace in that sense) and giving grace in those areas that are not so black and white. I have seen lately that there are a few areas where I have been walking in the gray area that it’s time for me to change. Not sin, but not at the level that God has called me to for where He is taking me.
Culture is an interesting thing. There are people who embrace culture fully. There are people that speak it, but don’t necessarily practice it completely. There are people that practice some things regularly and rarely acknowledge other parts. There are people that are recognized as leaders in a culture, and some that are still learning. There are generally people who are trying to create new beliefs and characteristics to keep a culture alive through generations. There are also those that buck up against the standard and want others to change.
What makes the basic beliefs and characteristics of the culture, are the parts that everyone is doing. At work, our culture was defined by the Sisters before us that started the ministry. As a Christian, the culture was defined in God’s Word and through the life of Christ. Each person involved has to decide to live the culture to make it effective and lasting. I want to be a person who truely embrases doing culture.