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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

Swimming Upstream

We could learn some lessons from first century Christians about living in an unchristian culture.  Immorality was rampant.  Invented gods were everywhere. They were  man-made,  intricately carved, unresponsive statues.  Self-centeredness was its own religion.  There was no moral compass.  Everyone did as they saw fit, just like in the time of Judges. (Judges 17:6) 

As Christians in a postmodern world, we are swimming upstream.  There will always be more of “them” than “us.”  This is the challenge we face as we live as Christians in an unchristian culture.  The goal is to close the divide through a transforming belief in Jesus, not by trying to adapt more to culture.

Culture will always try to make a wider circle, a more inclusive circle, if you will.  Jesus defined our circle, and it always revolves around God’s mission to raise up a people who live reflecting His character with such magnetism that it raises curiosity and questions.

We know where our place is, but we don’t always fill it.  We are good at being available to people in need.  Not as quick to give an answer for our faith.  This answer is not why we believe in Jesus. The answer is about Christ’s transforming work in us.

Trying to fight culture is a losing battle.  Culture knows how to win.  Culture is a bully.  But we serve the One who already won for us the most important gift:  a transformed life on earth that we will enjoy eternally with our rescuer, Christ Himself.

We remember how Jesus swam upstream in his culture and went to the cross for it.  Over and over, he faced the loud and testy voices of Jewish religious leaders.  Jesus didn’t speak against the church.  He tried to get the leaders to understand how far their motives had strayed from God’s vision for them. He did it without the angry voice of protest. That doesn’t mean he did it without emotion or strength.  His quiet-strong responses rendered argumentative traps useless.

We get uncomfortable swimming against the cultural current.  We look for ways to swim with it when we can.  Sometimes it has watered down the message Christ sent us to share.  When we speak more about issues and less about Christ’s work in our hearts, we’ve lost our best witness.  We’ve joined the argument without our most important message.

Our mission is to serve Christ in this present age with all its contradictions and protests. To do that we live in Christ as He lives in us.  We don’t set our agenda by what the world does or doesn’t do.  We live in the world with an-out-of-this-world heart because Christ, not an argument about Christ, but Christ Himself lives there.   We listen to the small whisper that says “now” or “not now.”  We take our questions to Him and refuse to borrow answers elsewhere just because they sound good. 

I wish I believed it was going to get easier.  I don’t.  As popular opinion turns against Christianity more and more, we must be vigilant without being offensive.  We are on the winning side, but we haven’t already won. There’s work to do.  And it doesn’t begin by trying harder to swim upstream, it begins by allowing more of Christ to change more of us.

Are we ready for the challenge?  Maybe not, but we know Who can train us for it.  Before you pray for Christ to help you do more, ask Him to do more in you.  Transformation by the power Christ’s resurrection is the only offense that makes sense.



To Take the Message Further:

To God’s elect, strangers in this world . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience. 1 Peter 1:1

How do you feel like a “stranger in this world.” 

Does Peter imply this is a negative label?

What have you been saved for according to this verse?


Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15


To whom do you prepare to give an answer to?

         What is the subject of your answer?


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2


Where are you in danger of conforming to the world?

          What does Paul say is the best way to address conformity?

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