This will be the last post of my journey through Dick Staub's book, The Culturally Savvy Christian. This book has been very formative for me (we even got a kind comment from the author on one of the posts!), and I hope that you go out and buy yourself a copy of it--or you can join our life group and go through it with us for free, because one couple generously offered to buy everyone a copy! The last two posts have been about God's deep and transforming presence, and this one is about God's loving presence.
I've blogged and preached extensively (for me, anyway) about agape love--a love that lays down its life. This is God's kind of love, and by this love we are transformed. We cannot be made like Christ simply by accumulating knowledge and experience; we become like Christ because we experience the depth of God's transforming love in our souls. "Soul wellness is ours only when the indwelling God, whose love is eternally available and utterly reliable, sustains us." (121)
"Only those who experience God's loving presence in the deepest places of their soul can be a loving presence in the souls of others. When touched by God, our deepest wounds can become our deepest well of compassion for the sorrows of others." (124) If we allow him, God can transform our pain and weakness into sources of compassion, empathy, and wisdom for our brothers and sisters. It is not a question of can God, but will you let God. His presence is liquid, seeking its own level in the deepest, darkest caverns of our hearts where the ground is both parched and fallow from the lack of water and light. His presence brings refreshment, healing, and eventually a harvest to the deep wounds of our souls. In this way we are transformed, not in manners of behavior, but in modes of being. "Our transformation is the result of God's presence in our life, and the evidence of God's presence is our embodiment of God's love." (125)
If you want to transform the culture, you yourself must be transformed by the rich, loving presence of God. "Today's Christians are often a mirror image of popular culture, wanting to transform the world without being transformed, wanting to prove Christianity intellectually without displaying the love that is the proof we are Jesus' disciples. The only way to enrich our culture is to be enriched personally, which comes when we experience God deeply and then embody God's loving presence. ...The culturally savvy Christian's goal is to embody God's loving, transforming presence in the world." (125)
I don't know about you, but I want to be that kind of Christian. I've only got one shot at this, and the greatest terror that haunts me is to think that I might go to my grave having lived a mediocre life characterized by the capitulation to popular culture rather than the embodiment of God's agape presence, by the stale shallowness of mindless distraction rather than the healing, soul-level transformation that comes from experiencing God deeply. True transformation--not just behavior modification--begins by experiencing God in the deep recesses of your inner being, and slowly but steadily grows upward and outward. The same is true, I suppose, of popular culture.