Should Christians assimilate with the culture?
During its first fifteen years, my software company only worked with domestic clients. In the late nineties, we landed Oxford University Press (a terrific feather in our cap), and a few years later, a French company approached us.
Actually, they approached two U.S. software companies. For the next six months, both companies passionately courted the French company, but in the end, they engaged us. Our new partner explained to me why we were chosen.
He said that their old software solution was custom built with 1980’s features in mind, so it lacked many modern marketing offerings, and it had been repaired so many times they feared it would implode under the weight of its own patches.
When our rival visited Paris, they “oohed and aahed” over the French wine, they praised the functionality of the client’s software, and they complimented the French company for their marketing savvy. They panted after the French way of life.
When we visited Paris, we demonstrated our software’s answers to their problems.
My new French friend said, “We were desperate for a solution to our difficulties. Your competitor tried to charm us into liking them, whereas your company simply showed us the answers we needed. We nicknamed your company, La Réalisation and your competitor, Les Amoureux.” He ended,
Why would we spend millions of dollars on someone so desperate for our affection?
More than any other prohibition in the Old and New Testaments, God warns against cultural assimilation—its practices and its idols. He repeatedly commands that we reject the thinking, answers, and gods of the nations around us.
His First Commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” He also required Israel to reject the customs of the occupants of the Promised Land and to abhor their practices. The narratives, psalms, and prophets constantly rebuke Israel for their frenzy for that worldly cultural absorption. Psalm 106 reprimands Israel because:
They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. (vss. 34-35)
Not only does God command us not to mix with the nations, he does so ten times more than he commands us not to commit adultery. In fact, he says that such assimilation is adultery:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Besides, It’s Just Stupid
It’s not that God wants us to live insignificant lives in inconsequential Christian ghettos. In hundreds of passages, he calls his people to be a blessing to the nations. We simply cannot be that blessing when we constantly curry their favor by begging for their blessings. God’s answers will never be blessings for others when we Christians embrace the false answers of the world.
Attraction is born of distinction and Vive la difference! Apple Corporation flourished when they offered something new; they weren’t your daddy’s IBM. When believers lust after this-world-solutions, we are crying, “Me too. Please like me. I can be cool too.”
Besides, when we crave the world’s approval, we will be disdained:
What are you doing, O devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and adorn yourself with gold? Why enlarge your eyes with paint? You beautify yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life. (Jer. 4:30)
Stalking the world may land a date or two, but it will never seal the deal.