Engaging Culture

Influence in a Hostile Culture

An interesting question for me is how a young Hebrew guy named Joseph, who started in prison, worked “inside” a foreign, hostile culture to rise to a #2 position of authority.  So many Christian leaders whine today about the hostile culture here in the United States and how it keeps Christians from having any significant influence.  They claim you’d have to “sell out” to rise in politics or cultural influence.  But the truth is,
today’s culture is nothing compared to what Joseph, Daniel, the three Hebrew young men, and plenty of others dealt with in the Old Testament. And they didn’t sell out.  If we could figure out now they navigated those hostile cultures to eventually exert such influence, it would be a powerful lesson in cultural impact.  Any ideas on that?

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  1. Those are three of my favorite stories (and great inspiration for writing projects)—and don’t forget Moses, who faced down a situation very similar to that in Egypt, or Paul, who went into numerous places and changed the world.

    In my mind, the main reason for their effectiveness was obedience to God. They never wavered on their mission (their brand, if you will, was integrity). God honored their adherence to His plan by giving them favor—favor that translated into continued promotion.

    Dangerous times separate wheat from chaff, and all of them were wheat. Of course, just being wheat doesn’t mean we’ll make a huge splash, but it definitely helps. After all, God is the one who has done the work. We’re just His agents to show that it has been done.

  2. Young (and old!) people in today’s culture certainly face an uphill struggle concerning moral purity (and the perceived "unrealistic" nature of it); however, it is an age-old problem, with an age-old solution:  "And though (Potiphar’s wife) spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her…" (Gen 39:10)  Maybe God is looking for a few good men (or women) to raise up who will stick to their principles even if they ascend (or descend!) in status and power.

  3. In the famous scripture of Jeremiah 29:11, God was speaking through Jeremiah to a group of exiles in Babylon, telling them that He had a hope and a future for them. It however didn’t involve returning to Jerusalem for another 70 years.

    Earlier in the chapter He told them to do what would be outrageous things for slaves to do, and that was build houses, marry, grow crops (make money) and have kids and grandkids and the last thing, to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. I’m not an expert on Babylon but I would suspect they didn’t exactly keep the law of Moses very well. Yet God told His people to pray and ask Him for the peace and prosperity of an ungodly country so that His people there could live in peace.

    And as you watch what happened to Daniel and his three friends, and also Nehemias, you see that some of them took God at His word and lived as if they had a hope and a future. Those guys were leaders in what at that point in time had to be one of the richest nations on the planet, and by holding powerful positions in government, they were wealthy men who had great influence on their government and possibly their culture. 

    Maybe part of what is missing is that instead of the church calling for judgment we might should be praying for the peace and prosperity of our country and culture. I doubt seriously we are as depraved as ancient Babylon yet God called for prayer from His people for mercy on that land. And that was before Jesus paid for the sins of mankind on a cross. How much more would God grant peace and prosperity to the U.S. with the blood of Jesus crying out for mercy in harmony with our prayers. 


  4. Daniel learned to read and speak the Babylonian language, was immersed in their culture and served an ungodly king. Yet the Bible says he did not defile himself in the sight of the Lord. This is where I believe the breach takes place; we bow. In the past, when I worked in the secular world, I excused myself from the things the world does and was no less “unpopular” or less of an influencer, in fact, I was respected for sticking to my convictions.  We should determine in our hearts to not bow. That is a key to influence. If we believe we cannot be an influencer in this hostile culture unless we bow, we have believed a lie. Those who whine about it need to stand up and take it like a soldier, are we not in a cultural war? Try being a missionary in the Middle East! Besides, who said it would be easy anyway?

  5. You can’t “figure out” the favor of God, but one thing is certain: You can’t fully walk in that favor while whining and complaining. These OT men and women of faith stood true to their convictions and their calling, and God was able to bless and bring increase to both. I daresay that many of our own callings today will ONLY be fulfilled in such environments as they endured in their day.

  6. Be really, really, really, really good at what you do. That way those who lied to get to the top will HAVE to put you second in charge (to make them look good).

  7. This is where it comes down to annointing. Creativity, innovation, leadership, intelligence, etc. are wonderful qualities to have. But if you want to change the world for Christ, you can only go so far without an intimate and passionate relationship with God above all else.

  8. I was discussing this with some on our team today.  In addition to your excellent O.T. examples, I would certainly include the early church / Book of Acts.  There again, the Roman culture could not have been more hostile to the believers of that time.  And yet what was the response of the believers?  Picket?  March on Rome?  Fight to enact more godly laws?  Whatever they did (and it is worth studying), they rocked their world for Jesus, and had amazing influence in their day. 

  9. Those men mentioned had something to offer of value to the godless cultures they found themselves in.

    Joseph was an excellent administrator. They were men who had an uncanny ability to see what was coming around the corner and provide solutions to the problems that plagued the rulers of the land.


    Could it be that the world will listen to the church more when we get from behind the comfort of our churches, engage the world outside of the church, and start providing REAL solutions to the problems that plague THEM?

    These seem to be the kind of people God places His favor on…

  10. Yes…They that KNOW their God WILL do great exploits.
    I believe that when you enter the kingdom of God ‘within’
    which I also believe is the ‘process’ of being saved as we travel on that narrow path, as trials and tribulations happe it strips the flesh and we become more and more aligned with the spirit of God and the things of THIS world do not have a hold on us.
    Thing is there are so FEW on that narrow path, as they would not OBEY the WEord of God, and pay the price to FOLLOW.

  11. Great post. I agree. Although, I wonder if it’s our desire to blend in with the world, remaining in our comfort zone that keeps us from influencing for Jesus.

    Jessica Zirbes

  12. They believed in the words they heard from God more than the circumstances around them. The Word was alive in their hearts and burned within their bones. It fed their spirits. When God speaks, that is the only abiding truth and reality. Circumstances came to make them doubt the validity of the Word. Through these circumstances, however, their faith was refined and made strong, so they were able to not only believe, but also live the truthfulness of the Word. When God said, “Let there be light,” light appeared because His words are imbued with His creative being. He is His Word. Even when what He said is not manifested in this world, “His Word is forever settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). Their drive and cry to see the Word be “on earth, as it is in heaven,” gave way to its manifestation in those men’s lives.

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