I had a random thought on the way to work this morning. In preparation for some Hyphen stuff that I’m doing, I’ve been revisiting some resources about the cultural gap in churches. With this information in the back of my mind, I set out on my commute. Somewhere about the halfway mark, Exodus 1:8 popped into my head. Ok, so I had to look up the chapter and verse but the guts of the verse were in my head. Anyway, this verse says, “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph”.
We live in a culture that is antagonistic to the concept of church. There is an atmosphere of shifting moralities, heightened self-centeredness and demanded tolerance. These qualities, plus others, have seemed to have set the church and culture at odds with each other.
Many elders look back to a time of perceived mutuality between church and culture. They may long for Mayberry, but the truth is the church and the world have always been the opposite of each other. One is spiritual, the other is carnal; one is holy the other is sinful and one is eternal while the other is temporary. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “What fellowship does light have with darkness”?
Though we are meant to be separate, God uses cooperation, as well as opposition, with the governments of this world in order to further His kingdom. When Joseph was sold into slavery, it was God’s plan to bring him and his family to Egypt to ensure their survival. The government of Egypt, was used as a tool by God.
However, this symbiotic relationship only lasted so long. Eventually there arose a king that didn’t know Joseph. In other words, the secular world didn’t understand the value of God’s people living in their midst. That sounds a lot like where we are today. We may not have the physical oppression that existed in Egypt, but we see that the church is clearly the antithesis of modern society.
The temptation is to sequester ourselves in a bubble of self-pity and outrage, but before we give into this let’s take advantage of the experience that the bible affords us. The Israelites were mistreated; they were disrespected by the foreign government that controlled them but it was precisely in this moment that God choose to lead them to the promised land.
We do live in a world that is evil, but is in the darkness that light becomes the most important. It is times of cooperation with the world that God uses them as a tool to protect his people, so it only stands to reason that it is the times of the greatest opposition that God believes His people are at their strongest.
I expect great things from the young adults and teenagers in the body of Christ. Why? Because this world has forgotten Joseph.