Cancel Culture – Living in a World of Hostility

Cancel culture deems we live for conformity and if we don’t conform, we are cancelled from any place at the table of influence. Most days it can feel as if the world has gone mad. From politics to environmentalism, if we aren’t careful we land in an unhealthy place dwelling in a pit of anger or paralyzed by fear. Are you focused on an ever-increasing uncertainty of societal norms? Are you consumed with how today’s happenings will affect your life tomorrow? Do you cave to brutal counter attacks on social media and retaliate? Or, are you resting in God’s sovereignty while looking for opportunities to show the love of Christ through the gospel? For the Christian, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we can shift a mindset of self-preservation to one that is fixed on Christ and salvation.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matt. 5:16

How do we avoid being used for evil when discussions become heated? As believers we are bound to refuse cooperating with cultural lies. Instead, we are to choose standing on God’s revealed truth. Yet, as we obey Christ who is our life (Col. 3:4), we must consider our witness to the world. We are a people of love and sometimes being loving means we are compelled to share scripture as we are confronted with the deceptive tactics in today’s culture. God has sufficiently provided in His Word what we need to live a life of discipline and love. What was true in Paul’s day is also true today. In Romans Chapter 12, he references the believer’s response to evil. What he wrote to believers then should also be our response today:

  • Believers are to hate evil – Rom. 12:9
  • Believers are never to repay evil for evil – Rom. 12:17
  • Believers are not to be overcome by evil – Rom. 12:21

What are some ways Christians are vulnerable to being overcome by evil? Temptation would lead us to entangle ourselves in strategies of opposition and insults instead of modeling Paul’s teaching. Knowing the Word is key to properly engaging our contentious culture today; apologetics serves as argument for something controversial. However, when not presented rightly, apologetics potentially shuts down otherwise productive conversations. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to speak “truth in love.” In context he was teaching the church body. Nevertheless, biblical truth communicated to anyone in an unloving way is not thoughtful (Col. 4). The Christian’s life is one which is called to pour out the aroma of Christ.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Cor. 2:15-16
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, - Ephes. 4:15

How does loving and serving others help Christians to not be overcome and discouraged by evil? Jesus Christ was the ultimate teacher of loving our enemies. His teaching was most clearly illustrated by himself during the days leading to the cross. And then, in Luke 23:34, he prayed “Father forgive them” while he hung on the cross in the greatest persecution of all time. We can reflect on the life of Christ, as a model to live circumspect lives. This reflection will be vital if we are to navigate our modern-day culture in a way that is honorable. May we do good to our enemies, bless our persecutors, and live in a manner of seeking Christ for help first and foremost. God delights to show his power and glory (Ps. 56:3).

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. - Phil 2:15-16

No doubt there are emerging ideas counter to a Christian worldview and I’m not saying that we should always remain silent when we are presented with these challenges. We are called to stand on truth and there are hills worth dying on. However, the gospel changes how we act and react to others. The gospel assures us we are all in the same boat of sin, needing Christ. Our discernment of each situation we encounter should be in humility, after first understanding our own heart and selfish desires. Let us never forget that the power of Jesus Christ continues to transform every aspect of human life as believers seek to do good in his name. Though there be times we go alone, the path of biblical truth is one we must follow while focused on the spread of the gospel. If we are to advance the gospel in a time of hostility toward Christians, we should be guided by wisdom, faith, and courage (Ephes 5:15-17). As believers, we can avoid being overcome by evil if our focus will be God as our refuge.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Ps 46:1 

Wise people stop and pray. Ed Welch writes, “Wise men and women know that anger is volatile and that its instincts are self-exalting. So they slow down. They count to one thousand before they react. They consider their own hearts with questions such as these: Do I live over others or under God? Do I believe that God cares and hears? Do I entrust judgment to Him, or do I prefer my own version of vigilante justice? Do I cry out to Him for help when I am agitated? Do I come to Jesus before I go to war? Do I say to Him, ‘I am not my own. I have been bought with a price’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20)? Have I confessed my own sin today?”

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD - Ps 4:4–5. 

What are some present challenges you face that are opposition to God’s Word? This is a time for believers to draw near to God – Navigating the difficulties of our cultural landscape requires daily Bible intake, prayer, and the encouragement of fellowship among God’s people. Wisdom would call us to think through conversations and situations of our time so we will know how to love others well with our words (Col 4). When an attack demands response, we need not be silent in speaking truth if it be God’s truth. In the same respect, under particular circumstances, silence demonstrates confidence, not cowardice (Is. 36:21).

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. - Col 4:5-6

The term “cancel culture” may be contemporary, but mistreatment of Christians is nothing new. It’s true that each of us faces challenges that are in opposition to faith in Christ, but lest we forget that the history of the church is one marked by suffering. From those who knew Jesus most personally to those whose work put the Word of God into the hands of people, martyrdom would be their destiny. Yet, even in the face of our present day evil, oppression, and injustice, believers are to pursue good works so we might give evidence of our faith and bring glory to our God. Cancel culture serves as a reminder that we are not to be “overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).