“Go into the culture and speak the language of the culture so that you can be a counterculture for the culture.”
I love this word. It speaks volumes of what followers of Jesus are supposed to be in this world. At my church we use this word practically every week. It’s in our DNA. But the word is often left undefined. What is a counterculture? What does it look like to plow one? Why do I have to be one? Am I plowing it already?
We sometimes talk about what that might look like in praxis; in fact, when talking about our lifestyles we often refer to that as counterculture. Sometimes we might say something like, “living out the gospel.”
Before I dive into what that looks like practically, I want to create an image of what that might look like philosophically.
If you’ve ever studied music, you’ve probably heard of counterpoint. Essentially, counterpoint is the relationship between two independent melodies that together create euphonic harmony. In a contrapuntal line, the once independent melodies become interdependent. One melody is completely distinct from the other melody, but when brought together they don’t clash. In fact, they create a beautiful harmonic line.
Counterculture works in a similar way. Culture may be moving in a certain direction, and a counterculture moves in a completely different direction, but this counterculture doesn’t attack the culture. It’s not an anticulture. To pull from my opening quote: we need to be “a counterculture for the culture.” In other words, we work for the good of the culture around us.
For many years modern evangelicals and fundamentalists have been caught up in a “culture war,” firmly believing that the culture was the enemy, and Christianity is responsible for making it right.
But if you look at the world around you, you’ll find endless possibilities for the gospel to infiltrate and come alongside this culture, creating a distinctly beautiful counterculture.
So what does this look like in praxis? Well, it’s different for every church. But look around you. You’ll soon discover the heartbeat of the culture you’ve been placed in.
What about for the individual? Perhaps that’s a little easier to answer. God requires certain things of his followers, but there’s one command he gives that encompasses all other commands.
“Love me. Love your fellow disciples. Love those around you who aren’t disciples. Love those who hate you for being a disciple.”
And what does that even look like? Perhaps it’s partnering with a local soup kitchen and helping to care for those facing poverty. Perhaps it’s taking that homeless person walking up and down your block everyday out to lunch. Perhaps it’s sitting next to that despondent guy at the bar in your local tavern and listening to his story.
Perhaps it’s choosing to not ogle the women at your office, to care more about your coworker’s wellbeing than your own, to deflect praise for a “knocked-out-of-the-park” project from yourself to your teammates, to value your community above your individuality.
And when someone asks, “Why do you live the way you live?” you can say,
“Because the God I serve stepped out of his comfort zone and said, ‘I love you’.”