John Thurston, whose house is above, raised his grandson, my father, when my granddad abandoned his new family. Thurston rassled a grizzly and won (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this). He knew the world he lived in, and navigated it well. How about us?
A man of his times
my dad’s granddad knew his Utah mountains
how to trail a grizzly
to gain a rug
how to stalk the wily Weber River trout
to feed a growing family
how to read the shapes and shades on the horizon
to prepare for the snow soon to arrive
A man of my times
I know my suburban southern California
how to navigate the lanes on crowded freeways
to save a few rushed minutes
how to gauge proper dress
to go as casual as I can
how to craft a resume with keywords
to gain a computer’s attention and a job
So have I gained
That last question implies I might sense some loss, right? But as much as I admire him, great granddad's skills likely wouldn't do well if you suddenly plunked him into our culture. Likewise, mine wouldn't help much in a match with a grizzly. We both know our times and deal with them. So, how does this concept influence our connection with God? Let me suggest two ways.
First, look between the lines in what the apostle Paul told the Athenians. He came into a pagan city with immorality imbedded in its culture. Never did he accuse them of these, but found common ground by understanding their culture, "I see that in every way you are very religious...I even found an altar...: 'to an unknown god.' Now what you worship as unknown I am going to proclaim to you" (Acts 17:22-23). Because he understood the times and the values of the culture around him, he was able to graciously gain a hearing to tell them about Jesus.
Don't we share that desire? I'm convinced the more often and the more effectively we share Jesus, the closer we get to him. So, understanding the values and standards and ways of our society allows us to better reach them.
Second, let's go beyond personally telling about Jesus to impacting a culture. Following a civil war, David had been chosen as king of a fractured nation, and began to consolidate the people. In the list of those who supported David was a group "from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do" (1 Chronicles 12:32). Or, they knew the days they lived in, they saw the goal, and they crafted a strategy to transform the culture. But to transform it, they needed to know it.
Kick Starting the Application
Let's move to 2016. Do we know and understand our culture? Do we see its strengths and weaknesses? Do we know the path that led us to where we are? Can we discern God's plan? Do we know the world views? The literature? The movies?
For many of us, we see these issues and their paganism and immorality. But can we set aside being critical in order to have rational and agreeable discussions, like Paul? Can we wisely use books and movies and other cultural items to move conversations toward God in a nice manner?
Can we know our culture, which requires contact with it (like the group from Issachar), without being changed by it?
Last, what will you do this week to know your times and what to do?