After standing at the base of that significant tree, I am sure those sweet, juicy bites of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil sat like cement in the stomachs of Adam and Eve, sending up bile of bitter regret. The irony of Satan’s lie is that he told them eating the fruit would make them just like God, yet they—the crown of creation—were already created in the image of God! It is our sin that pulls us further from God and his image, further from what he intended us to be. Satan’s lies will always pull us in the exact opposite direction of God’s intentions for us, yet his lies are enticing; so much so, that they often become the cultural norm. The sweet fragrance of the vile fruit stills lingers in the air, and oh, how quickly we grasp for it!
Speaking with a high school student recently, it was obvious how great this cultural pressure weighs on him. He feels desperately alone as he strives to live a life pleasing to God, and often wonders how he could ever make a difference in this overwhelmingly evil culture.
I’m encouraged that Jesus has used individuals to drastically change culture, pulling people back to the ways of the one whose image they bear. Jesus tells us that just a little yeast can permeate the whole dough. Throughout history, we have seen a few people change their world.
I have been reading an excellent book, Why not Women, by Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth with a Mission. It’s a book that examines God’s word, and history to see how God has used women in ministry, and examines difficult texts concerning women in roles of leadership in the church. In it, Loren shares some examples of men and women who have transformed their culture. Here are some examples.
William Wilberforce pursued the cause of abolishing slavery in England for thirty years in parliament. The law passed the year after he passed away.
Though the image is absurd to us now, the pubs of England used to have stepping stools for children to order their gin! General William Booth and the Salvation Army fought against this cultural norm. It was Christians who spoke out against the atrocity of child labor as well. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, children were used in Britain’s mines to do long hours of intense work. The reason being, if a mine collapsed, children were the cheaper beast of burden—much less expensive than a valuable horse. Christian’s refused to allow the image of God to be stripped from these children, standing against this inhuman treatment.
In 1819, after a Spiritual awakening in Geneva, Switzerland, Henry Dunant and some people from his church formed a group to actively serve those dying on the battlefield of war. Before this point, wounded soldiers were left to die. This group is what we now call the International Red Cross.
Even within the church, there have been cultural norms that needed to be changed. A man named William Carey became convinced that God was calling him to bring the Gospel to India, yet this was not something that was done in his day. When he told the leaders of his denomination his desire, one replied, “…When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.” William did go to India, and others followed suit, bringing the Gospel message to many other nations as well.
As we look back over history, it is enraging to see the state of what was culturally normal. Yet, a few people following the Spirit of God transformed their culture. At times, we may feel we are in the minority as we stand for the Truth, but one person walking with God will always outnumber a thousand walking with lies.