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April 16, 2024 25 mins

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How is the Christian faith different than the culture in which it is? Is there any compatibility between the Christian Faith and culture? If not, how does a Christian engage with the culture? 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Good evening.
It's great to be here.
Thank you to Dr Johansson forthis invitation.
The first time I had aninteraction with CMDA staff was
last year with the nationalorganization, some of the
leaders there.
We went to Israel for a 10-daytrip.
Obviously things have changedsince then, but I've been
looking for the opportunity tomeet up with CMDA.

I met a lot of the peopleduring that trip and then I
didn't know Johns Hopkins had abranch.
But great to be here.
One of the usual desires thatkids have in school is to try to
fit in and anything or anyonethat's slightly different.
You know, it's kind of awkwardfor them and so even if kids

have, let's say, a disability,sometimes more than the
disability itself, it's the factthat they are different that
makes them difficult to fit in,that makes it awkward for them,
and sometimes that seems evenworse than the handicap for them
Now this can be an issue in theChristian faith when, if we are
in a different culture, in anon-Christian culture, we may

feel that awkwardness.
How do we react in anon-Christian culture?
This evening, in a sermonentitled Salty Fish, I want to
look at the challenge ofChristian interaction with
I've divided this talk intofour parts.
In the first part, we will lookat the immiscibility of culture
Second, we will look at thelure of compromise.
Third, we will look at theimmiscibility of culture.

Second, we will look at thelure of compromise.
Third, we will look atintentional grounding.
And fourth, we will look at thebalance.
All right, so it's going to beabout 30 minutes or so and then
we'll try to wind it down.
First, let's look at theimmiscibility of culture.
Now there are a lot ofsimilarities between Christians
and non-Christians.
Now when I say non-Christiansin this context, it means the

secular culture.
So if I said non-Christian inan Indian context, it is
predominantly a Hindu culture.
If I said that in the MiddleEastern context or in Asia or
some other country, it'll be theBuddhist or Muslim.
But in the West the primarynon-Christian context is a
secular context and it need notbe atheistic, but I'll call them

functional atheists.
So it's not like the secularculture wants to prove and
absolutely believes that thereis no God, but they act like
there is no God and that is thesecular culture in which they
are, in that there is no God butthey act like there is no God
and that is the secular culturein which they are in.
So there is some similaritybetween a Christian and a
non-Christian or a secularist,and that has to do with our

We all have our human issues.
We've got kids, we've gotproblems.
We've got work, we've got.
Whatever we do humanly is oursimilarity.
We've got work, we've got.
Whatever we do humanly is oursimilarity.
But one of the main differencesbetween a Christian and a
secularist is that a Christianbelieves in the afterlife and
the secularist or the atheistdoes not believe in the

So a Christian lives today inlight of tomorrow, whereas a
secularist or an atheist livestoday in the light of today.
So if you are a Christian in asecular culture, as we are in
the West, the differences getbigger over time.

So, for example, interstate 95is a road that starts in Miami
and goes all the way up alongthe East Coast, through Maine,
to the border of US and Canada.
All right.
So let's say that you weretraveling along I-95 North and

as you're traveling along I-95North, in your secular worldview
, you suddenly became aChristian.
North, in your secularworldview, you suddenly became a
And when you become a Christian, it's not like you take a
tangent and go okay, instead ofgoing to Maine, I'm going to go
to New Hampshire.
That's not what happens whenyou become a Christian.
You take a 180 degree turn andinstead of going north, you are

now going south.
Now, the moment you exit out ofI-95 and try to go south, you
are very similar to a personthat was driving next to you.
But as time goes along, thedifferences get bigger, because
the secularist is going northand the Christian is going south

So over time, the differencesget bigger and bigger.
What is the consequence ofliving in a culture where the
culture has a differentworldview than our own?
And what happens is that theculture will be antagonistic to
the Christian, and this hashappened throughout the

Let's just read a verse In John, chapter 15, verse 18,.
Jesus told his disciples if theworld hates you, know that it
has hated me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, theworld would love you as its own,
but because you are not of theworld, but I chose you out of

the world, therefore, the worldhates you.
When, as a Christian, we live ina secular culture, like oil and
water, we are immiscible.
Second, let's look at the lureof compromise.
Second, let's look at the lureof compromise.
Since we are living in such adifferent, opposite culture,

there is a lot ofincompatibility and therefore
there is a lot that we can lose.
Now listen to Jesus talking tohis disciples.
And his disciples were not in asecular culture, they were in a
religious culture.
And and still, look what Jesustells his disciples.
Let's read two verses.
Mark, chapter 10, verse 29 saysJesus said truly, I say to you,

there is no one who has lefthouse or brothers or sisters, or
mother or father or children orlands for my sake and for the
He goes on to say that whateveryou've lost, you you will get
But the point is that we canlose all these things simply for
being a Christian.
And then he says in Mark 8,verse 35, for whoever would save

his life will lose it, butwhoever loses his life for my
sake and the gospels will saveit.
When we become Christians, whenwe are Christians in a secular
culture, we can lose a lot ofthings.
We can lose relationships, wecan lose opportunities, we can

lose respect.
Your paper may not getpublished because it doesn't fit
the secular narrative.
I mean, if your paper has badresearch and doesn't get
published because of that.
That's a different story.
But if your paper, of allthings being equal, if your
paper is a good paper, but if itdoesn't fit the secular
narrative, it need not getpublished.

Right, when there is the riskof loss, then there is the risk
of compromise.
Neil McDonough is an actor inseveral movies and shows.
He acted in DesperateHousewives.
He acted in Minority Report andBand of Brothers, but he

refused to do certain scenesbecause of his faith, and so,
while they were filming the ABCseries scoundrels in 2010, he
was let go and he wasblacklisted by Hollywood because
he refused to do certain scenes.
There are things that we willlose, and it's because of the

risk of loss that we have therisk of compromise.
Let me tell you two things aboutcompromising.
Number one Christians are knownnot to compromise their faith,
and that is why in many hostilecountries, there are still a lot
of Christian martyrs.
There's a lot of persecutionhappening in the Middle East, in

India, in China, in North Koreaand in several other countries.
There are a lot of Christianmartyrs because Christians don't
I don't usually quote AdolfHitler, but this is what he said
in Mein Kampf.
He said the greatness ofChristianity did not arise from
attempts to make compromiseswith those philosophical

opinions of the ancient worldwhich had some resemblance to
its own doctrines, but from theunrelenting and fanatical
proclamation and defense of itsown teaching.
Christians don't usuallycompromise.
The second thing aboutcompromise that I want to tell
you is that compromise isusually very slow.

When we compromise, wecompromise very slow.
It's one thing at a time.
So if we were compromising, wewould not see much difference
between yesterday and today.
In fact, we wouldn't see muchdifference between last week and
this week.
But if we looked over a periodof time from last year to this

year, you'll find that we havecompromised.
There is immiscibility of aChristian and secular culture
and there is always the lure,there's always a temptation for
us to compromise.
How can we keep ourselves fromcompromising?
So, thirdly, we will look atintentional grounding.

How can we avoid drifting awayand compromising?
How do we stay grounded?
I want to tell you two thingshow we can stay grounded to
avoid compromises.
First is fellowship with God,fellowship with God.
We were talking about havingBible study every week, and it's
with Bible study and fellowshipwith God that we can stay

Colossians, chapter 2, verses 6and 7, reads Therefore as you
receive Christ Jesus, the Lord,so walk in him, rooted and built
up in him and established inthe faith.
How do we stay rooted?
We walk with him through Biblestudy, through worship not just

corporate worship throughpersonal worship, through
personal Bible study, throughpersonal prayer, through
personal communion with God andtime spent with God.
Let me tell you a fable.
There was a diamond expert anda student came to the diamond

expert to learn how to identifya diamond.
It was a 30-day course, and sothe student comes to the diamond
expert and he signs up and hecomes for the first day.
He comes on the first day wherethey were having this training
and he signs up and he comes forthe first day.
He comes on the first day wherethey were having this training
and he's the only student.
And so the diamond expert sayshere's a diamond, I've got an
errand to run, I'll be rightback.

And so here's, the studentholds a diamond and the right
back ends up being at the end ofthe day.
So the diamond expert comes atthe end of the day and says I'm
so sorry, my errand ran reallylong and I'm so sorry.
I'll take the diamond back fromyou, but tomorrow we will do
the rest of the course.
We have 29 days more.
So the next day he comes.

The student comes, the expertsays here's a diamond, hold on
to this diamond.
I've got one more errand to run.
Let me just run the errand,I'll come right back.
Of course he doesn't come rightback.
He comes in the evening, hetakes a diamond, apologizes to
the student and the student goesaway and obviously, as you know
, it goes on for about 29 daysand so finally, the 30th day Now

the student is not happy at all.
He comes on the 30th day, thelast day of the course, and the
expert says here's a diamond,I'm so sorry, I've got an
emergency that I need to run to.
I will be right back.
He gives the diamond to thestudent and he goes, and of
course he does not come rightback.
He comes at the end of the day.
The student is livid.

He says, ben, I paid so muchmoney to get training from you
and here you are.
Are you wasted my time and youwasted my money?
But, by the way, the diamondyou gave me today, something
felt off with it.
And so the master took thediamond back from the student
and says you've learned yourlesson, and the lesson was the
first 29 days I gave you a realdiamond and today I gave you a

false diamond.
He said the way to know what areal diamond is is to keep in
touch with the real diamond.
That's all you need to do, andwhen a false diamond comes along
, you will immediately know whata false diamond is.
You see, ladies and gentlemen,we don't need to try to learn
every false worldview out there.

We just need to know what thetruth is, and once you know what
the truth is, everything elsethat is not the truth is
More than 20 years ago, when Ifirst came to the US, when I
moved to the US, one of thesub-cuisines in India is well,

we have Indian cuisine,obviously we have Chinese
cuisine, but one of thesub-cuisines that I really,
really loved was Indo-Chinesecuisine, and just like you have
Indo-American cuisine, herethere's Indo-Chinese cuisine and
I loved it.
So when I moved here about20-plus years ago, I looked for
a place where I could get thatsame taste again.

We stayed two years in Chicago.
I went to multiple Chineserestaurants to get that taste
Never got the taste.
We moved two years to Boston.
We went to multiple Chineserestaurants, never got that
I moved to New Orleans.
At that point I had stoppedtrying much.
I moved to Kansas City foreight years.
We went to multiple Chineserestaurants.

At this point the issue was Ididn't even know what it tasted
What was it supposed to taste?
I forgot what it tasted like.
Yes, I was trying all thesedifferent Chinese restaurants
for Indo-Chinese tasting food,but I had forgotten what the
original taste was like.
What I should have done is goneback frequently and had the

taste and tried to compare.
But I mean, it doesn't matter,I still wouldn't have found it.
But that is the point.
We need to keep in touch withthe truth, to know what the
falsehood is.
In touch with the truth, toknow what the falsehood is.
The second method by which wecan have intentional grounding
is through fellowship with otherChristians.
Fellowship with otherChristians, with God's people

that follow God.
As we know, community is one ofthe best ways to get anything
done right.
I mean, if you want to loseweight, get a friend and go to
the gym.
If you want to learn a newhabit, get a friend and do
If you want to learn how toplay I don't know the guitar,
rather than looking up YouTubevideos and trying to strum to it

, it's better to get somebodyelse to look at YouTube videos
with you or Go to a teacher whowill teach you.
So there is more than oneperson.
Community is one of the bestways to grow spiritually as well
In Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 24and 25, the writer of Hebrews
writes this.
He says and let us consider howto stir up one another to love

and good works, not neglectingto meet together, as is the
habit of some.
Even then there were peoplethat didn't show up, but
encouraging one another, and allthe more as you see the day
drawing near, fellowship withGod and fellowship with other
believers is a great way to staygrounded.

And I also said that we need tobe intentionally grounded,
because it's easy to drift away.
If we don't do anything, wewill drift.
Now, if we lived in a committedChristian culture, right.
If that was a culture that weare in, a committed Christian
culture, if that was a culturethat we are in, we don't have to

do anything.
We will go with the flow.
But when we are living in asecular culture, if you don't do
anything, you'll go backward,and that is why we need to be
intentional in our grounding.
We need to intentionally maketime to read the Bible
Make time to pray intentionally.
Make time to read the Bibleintentionally, make time to pray
, intentionally, make time tomeet with other people.

How does a fish in the oceankeep from getting salty?
How does a fish in the oceankeep from getting salty?
Based on the regulation of salt, there are two types of marine
One type are the osmoconformers.
Those are, for example, sharksand most invertebrates.

And the osmoconformers, whatthey do is they don't do
And so if the sea is salty,they get salty.
They don't do anything at allto change that dynamic.
And then there are theosmoregulators, and this
includes most fish in the sea.
And so for these fish, theyhave to actively get rid of the

salt in their excretory system.
You will remember from yourGuyton reading when you drink
salty water what happens in theloop of Henle.
You will remember that right.
So these fish have to do thesame thing.
They may not have the loop ofHenle, but they've got to do the
same thing A lot of work,active, intentional work in

order to not be salty.
If they did nothing, they wouldimmediately become salty.
So if you went to a restaurantand you ordered shark, what do
you expect it to be Salty?
Because it is an osmoconformer.
If you ordered fish that wasn'tsalted, you expect it to be non

What if you ate a fish and thatwas salty?
What I'm gonna say now is gonnabe gross, but you guys have
already eaten, so it's okay.
If you ate a fish that is salty, that means the fish has been
dead in the water for a while.
Right, because that's whathappens when you're dead in the
You go from becoming anosmoregulator to an

osmoreconformer, and that is whywe need to be intentionally
grounded, otherwise we willdrift.
Fourth, let's look at thebalance.
I said that we should notcompromise, but that doesn't
mean we go and sit in somesecluded place in a hillside,

away from secular culture.
There needs to be a balance.
You know, when you pop popcornin a microwave, there's a
You don't want to pop it tooless because you'll have so many
unpopped kernels, but you don'twant to pop it too much because
there'll be burnt popcorn, allright.

So it's like a balance.
You want it to be popped, justright, but not too many unpopped
So that is what we're talkingabout.
We want a balance.
So I want to give you two waysto balance, two things to
First is to interact in ourculture without compromise.
Interact but not compromise.

The Christian faith is aboutengagement with people, and
Jesus wants us to engage.
Jesus wants us to interact.
Let me read our last fiveverses, and this essentially
what Jesus says here, summarizeseverything that I said in the
last 20 minutes.
Let me just set the context ofthese verses.
This is Jesus talking to hisfather about the disciples.

Jesus talking to his fatherabout the disciples the day
before Jesus died.
This is what he said.
John, chapter 17, verses 14through 18.
Verses 14 through 18.
I have given them your word andthe world has hated them
because they are not of theworld, just as I am not of the
I do not ask that you take themout of the world, but that you

keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world, justas I am not of the world.
Sanctify them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,so I have sent them into the
We need to engage, we need tointeract, but not compromise in
our culture.
Second, we need to be loving butnot judgmental.

This is one of the easiestthings to say, but so impossible
to do.
It's incredible when you lookat the life of Jesus.
It is so amazing how he walkedthat fine balance between love
and justice.
People of all shapes and sizes,especially in the bottom rung

of society, wanted to hang outwith him, and yet you never get
the feeling that Jesus wasjudging them.
He welcomed them.
They wanted to hang out withhim.
It is incredible when you readthe Gospels, and that's why it's
so hard for us to find thatbalance of being loving but not

I mean, we go back and forthSometimes we are loving,
sometimes we're judgmental, andit's just so hard.
How can we be interactive butnot compromising?
How can we be loving but notjudgmental, okay, so let me give

you a last suggestion how tofind this balance, to do both.
Think of it as a familyrelationship.
What if you had a twin who is adrug addict?
Okay, what if you had a twinwho's a drug addict?
How would you deal with thattwin?

You would interact with thetwin but not compromise In this
arc of the story.
I'm assuming that you're not adrug addict too, and that would
change things around.
Your twin is a drug addict, butyou're not.
So in this story, that's whatit is you would interact.
It's not like you're going toshun your twin and not talk to

them anymore.
You would interact, but youyourself will not compromise.
At the same time, you mayadvise your twin, but there is
always love.
There isn't there, maybe, if weconsider treating people in our

culture, in our secular culture, as we would a twin who has
become a prodigal.
Let me end with a story.
In 1995, the relic of a hand ofJoseph de booster was brought to
the town of Kalawao in theisland of Molokai in Hawaii, and

there was widespreadcelebration.
Why, why?
Joseph de Worcester, or FatherDamien, was a Belgian priest
that was born in 1840 and from avery young age he wanted to be
a missionary.
He heard about the need toserve 700 leprosy patients who

were in this isolated place inKalawao in Hawaii, and they were
banished from their communitiesbecause they had leprosy.
In 1873, father Damien came toKalawao and he changed it from a
place where outcasts would goto die to a place where outcasts

would go to live.
Because he learned the localHawaiian language, he started
schools, he started churches, hestarted bands and choirs,
establish a water system and hedid a lot of things for the
But 12 years after he got there, the people in that community

got to understand the depth ofhis love for them, because he
himself became a leper and atthe age of 49, father Damien
died in Kalawao.
Ladies and gentlemen, no onecan argue when the basis of our

interaction is self-sacrificiallove.
No one can argue when the basisof our interaction is
self-sacrificial love, and thatis what we see.
2,000 years ago, when Jesuscame, he was killed and tortured
by the people he came to save.

Thank you,
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