Painting a Picture of Redemption
In addition to answering the question of whether religion exists for the sake of man or the sake of God, Abraham Kuyper addresses the Christian’s attitude toward several spheres of life: religion, politics, science, and art. It is important for the Christian to consider his or her own position with respect to these spheres. How should the Christian view science? What is the Christian’s role with respect to politics and the government? What is a Christian’s role in the arts? These are big questions. How many of us have taken the time to really answer them?
In John 17, Christ is praying for His people. In it we learn of His desire that we remain in the world, while not being conformed to it.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:15-19.
We only heed the easy half of the command to live in the world, but not of the world–and it’s not the half you originally thought would be the easiest. Many of us have found it easier to live not of the world by living outside the world.
What does it mean that Christ has sent us into the world? It’s a delicate question. Based on this passage and others, I think that living in the world comprises a bit more than just being here physically. Somehow, we must be involved with the world, without being of it. It is hard to know exactly how this command should be realized in our own lives. But, I think that struggling with this command has a God-ordained purpose. The tension is supposed to be there: how can we be involved enough in our world to be a transforming influence without being conformed to it? It is in the struggle that we learn about ourselves and our relationship to the world. This struggle is part of the richness of the Christian life. If we ignore it, we are missing out.
What we seek is cultural transformation. Unfortunately, when it comes to cultural transformation, many Christians make it a priority not to get involved. We avoid certain parts of town for fear of what we’ll see. We don’t go to neighborhood meetings because we’re afraid our neighbors will discover who we really are. We only attend Christian musical performances. We send our kids to schools with “Christian” in the name as if the study of science, language, mathematics, and history are not God-glorifying in and of themselves. When it’s time to send them to college, our primary concern is who will influence our kids, not who our kids will influence. At the end of the day, we are so worried about worldly conformity that transformation goes out the window.
In Genesis, God gives us what Nancy Pearcey calls our first job description: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” I contend that being fruitful includes, but is more than, just having babies. Being fruitful is producing fruit: working with your hands, creating useful things, studying Creation, building things, developing governments and societies, painting, drawing, writing, researching new medicines, writing computer programs, dancing, singing–all of these things, as long as they are done for the Glory of God–are part of being fruitful. In doing them we reflect the creative nature of God, and maybe even paint a faint picture of the redemption of what was once pronounced “good” and what one day will be restored to its full beauty. Transforming culture really is painting a picture of redemption. If you are a Christian, what picture are you painting? Are you even painting at all?