A few years ago I arrived home to one of California’s rolling blackouts. The lights wouldn’t turn on. The streetlights were dark. The Internet was down. People in the neighborhood had walked out into the middle of the street and were standing there as if to say, “What do we do now?” There was no light anywhere. All I had was my cell phone, which had a low battery, but there was a little light emanating from it that I used to find my way around. And what I discovered was that a little light can go a long way.
We are living in a very dark time culturally, where a little light can go a long way. Today, an entire generation of young people seems to be adrift morally and spiritually. Research has found that most Millennials, also known as Generation Y, don’t pray, don’t read the Bible and don’t go to church. One expert was quoted in USA Today as saying that if the trend continues, “the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”
Part of the fault lies at the feet of my generation, the baby boomers. We are obsessed with being forever young. We are the generation that effectively started what we know as the youth culture today, and a lot of us just can’t let go. As Glenn Frey of the Eagles joked on tour, “Welcome to the Eagles Assisted Living Tour.” That is pretty accurate. Their hit, “Heartache Tonight,” could now be changed to “Heartburn Tonight.” Our generation has gone from acid rock to acid reflux.
The baby boomers have been so obsessed with themselves that we have forgotten to raise our children in God’s ways. We have been so busy rebelling from our moral upbringing that we have raised a generation that doesn’t seem to have any moral bearings whatsoever.
That is why the Gospel is so desperately needed today. The Bible teaches that the culture will not get better with time; it will get worse. Despite the fact that we have increased in scientific, medical, historical, educational, psychological and technological knowledge to an astounding degree, we have not in any way, shape or form changed our own basic nature, and we have not improved society.
Sure, our confidence has increased, but our peace of mind has diminished. Our accomplishments have increased, but our sense of purpose and meaning have all but disappeared. Instead of improving the moral and spiritual quality of our lives, our discoveries and accomplishments have simply provided new ways to show ourselves for what we really are: depraved, sinful and wicked.
There was a buoyant optimism in the 19th century, a time Mark Twain described as the Gilded Age. A new philosophy for living was emerging, and everyone felt that as the millennium had just dawned, man literally would build a heaven on earth. It was actually thought that humankind would best nature, and even God, through its version of modern technology.
In that day, shipbuilding was the counterpart to perhaps the space race of today. So it was decided that the largest and most luxurious cruise ship ever would be built. After years of planning and building, the Titanic was unveiled. Someone actually dared to say that God himself couldn’t sink that ship. But the leading technology of the day sunk after it struck an iceberg. The Titanic was a metaphor for the ego of humanity, thinking that it could somehow, in its own ability, create something that would bring about utopia.
But modern man has merely discovered new ways to corrupt and destroy himself. We go from war to greater war, from immorality to greater immorality, from perversion to greater perversion. The spiral is downward, not upward. I am amazed at the faith of those who believe that humanity is basically good, because I don’t know how someone can live for any time on planet Earth and still hold that view.
The Bible teaches that humanity is getting worse, and it will continue going in that direction. As a result, the temptation for some Christians today is to withdraw into their own Christian subculture, to remove themselves and their children from the world around them. But that is virtually impossible. They may remove themselves and their children from the culture, or at least attempt to. But even so, the culture will find them.
Not only that, but attempting to isolate ourselves is not living out a biblical worldview. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? … You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden … let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13–16 NIV). Jesus used two word pictures: salt and light, because the world is corrupt, and the world is dark. The world needs salt (a preserving agent) because it is corrupt, and the world needs light because it is dark.
However, as we go out to impact our culture with the good news, we must also realize that, by and large, people are not always supportive of and receptive to what we have to say. But we must say it anyway.
As Christians, we may try to withdraw into our own subculture, but that is not what we are to do. The objective of a Christian is not to isolate, but to infiltrate. It is not to evade, but to invade. We want to influence the world – not have the world influence us. We are to impact our culture without being compromised by it.