When Barb and I were first married an old T-shirt came with me into the marriage. I had bought it while in college, it was reversible and double layered so it could be worn on colder days, and I loved it. It had HPER emblazoned across the front on both sides: Health, Physical Education, Recreation. HPER
Barb just thought I was announcing to the world I was hyper.
She hated that shirt because it was ugly and worn out and she made me promise never to wear it in public. It became my ‘go to’ shirt I would put on to wear around the house, but one day I noticed she began casting sideways glances at it like a lioness might look at a wounded gazelle, waiting for the right time to pounce.
She would say things like, ‘You know, one day you may come home to find that shirt missing’, testing the waters. I told her not to even joke about it. But Barb loves order with everything in its place, and to her that shirt ruined her sense of all that was right and orderly in her world, which somehow included my dresser drawer. At that early stage of marriage she was still under the mistaken impression many young brides make; ‘I’ll change him’, and ‘I’ll dress him’ - she saw the fact that I would actually like that shirt as a character flaw in me she had to correct.
One day it happened
To Barb, the shirt had to go to restore order to her universe. To me, if that shirt were to disappear, there would be a Big Bang in her universe.
I came home from work one day, went to my drawer for my shirt, and couldn’t find it. At first she shrugged her shoulders, hoping I’d give up the hunt and wear something else. But she had that guilty lioness look in her eye, like she’d killed a gazelle and hidden it from everyone else. Once she admitted she had thrown it out I blew up. We had made a rule when we were dating that once we got married we’d never allow the “D” word (divorce) to enter our thoughts nor conversation, but I came close to breaking that promise that day.
I behaved very badly, ranting and yelling at decibels approaching that of a jet taking off, like she had just ripped a rib out of my side, and emotionally it was like that. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to it as the trash truck carried it away. She said it was so ugly the poor would not have wanted it, which was a huge statement since we WERE the poor! Then she admitted if she gave it to the poor she was afraid I’d track it down and rescue it, and she knew the trash truck was final.
She apologized and I made her promise never, ever, ever, ever again throw out my clothes without my agreement. She agreed and I also apologized for blowing up like Vesuvius, and proof she has stuck to her promise is over 36 years of marriage and 2 ugly, hole plagued T-shirts in my drawer.
My HPER shirt was comfortable, fit perfectly, was great in all seasons, and close to my heart. So also are cherished traditions and beliefs of many Christians, and to even talk about them makes those who hold them dear think I am threatening to throw them away. Specifically, I want to talk about the Messianic movement within Christianity, the role of modern Israel versus spiritual Israel, and the place of the Old Testament law in our New Testament times.
So don’t let the discussion of these be the equivalent of a beloved shirt being tossed; Allow me to examine scripture, culture, history, and logic.
A counter-culture is the opposite of the culture in which they live
The New Testament church was a counter-culture movement. A counter-culture rejects or opposes the predominant values and culture around it. An example is the culture of Israel in gospel times was to let the widows with no family beg on the streets for food. The church was counter to that, providing food and shelter as seen in Acts 2-6.
The culture of the time was to have each person and family care for their own, with small offerings made to the temple at certain times. The counterculture church was opposite that, with individuals networking, sharing resources, skills, and money as needs arose, bound together in strong relationships.
A subculture is a group within a culture that sets itself off from the rest, noted by distinct behaviors, language, and often styles. Today, church culture is largely a subculture with smaller subcultures within it.
Subcultures are irrelevant to the society and culture around them
Counter cultures affect society and culture and are outward looking. Subcultures are largely irrelevant to society because they are inward looking. Subcultures are seen by culture as weird, strange, foolish, and aren’t taken seriously.
Subcultures have their own language, understood only by those within the subculture. In the 1950′s the beatniks were a subculture and provide good examples of their language: Noodle it out, meaning think it through. Off the cob, meant corny or old fashioned. Lead sled, was a classic car, often dad’s old car. If you were outside that culture however, you didn’t understand them and thought they were weird.
Are you part of a subculture, or are you part of a counter culture in your faith?
Do you speak Christian-ese, or can others outside your subculture understand you perfectly?
Do you know these phrases unique to various subcultures (streams) in the faith: Open heaven, open a portal, plead the blood, glory bumps, clap/praise offering to the Lord, stand on the Word, I don’t feel led, ask Jesus into your heart, armor bearer, covet your prayers, travel mercies, put out a fleece. If you used any of these to someone not raised around church and not born again, would you have to explain what you meant in normal terms? (Then why speak Christianese?)
Are you part of a subculture that doesn’t get depressed, it gets a ‘spirit of heaviness’?
Are you part of a subculture that doesn’t get stressed, but just needs to ‘let go and let God’?
Are you part of a subculture that never gets rude, but just ‘speaks the truth in love’?
Are you part of a subculture that never makes decisions on their own, but is only ‘led of the Lord’?
Are you part of a subculture that never says I’m sorry, but just says ‘I’m not perfect, just forgiven.’?
Is your first language English and you were born non-Jewish, but you have become part of a subculture that calls Jesus, Yeshua? Are you part of a subculture that picks and chooses what scriptures it believes, explaining away selected verses or passages of Paul and John especially?
The culture of the kingdom is a counterculture to society -
Do you think you’ve been in the counterculture of the kingdom only to discover you’ve somehow become part of a subculture, no matter the stream of the faith? Countercultures want to change their world by living lives before others, within the larger culture thus relevant, while pointing the way to a higher way of thinking and a higher way of life, as they did in Acts. This series will help if you’ve discovered you’ve been part of a subculture while your heart cries out to be part of the kingdom counterculture.
More next week about the cultures of the Messianic, Israel, and Gentile disciples within Christianity. Blessings,