Over the last several posts, we have examined what it means to follow God as exiles in a foreign, hostile culture. As believers, our society increasingly views us as close-minded, combative, irrelevant and out of touch with contemporary culture. So how do we remain faithful disciples of Jesus while engaging our world?
Jesus and the Roman World
When Jesus stepped in this world as fully man and fully God, he encountered a complex and challenging Roman culture occupying Israel. In response to this anti-God, pagan culture of Rome spreading through the land of Israel, many Jewish subgroups responded in different ways:
- The Sadducees compromised with the Romans by striking political deals for power and control.
- The Pharisees sought to separate from the culture by forming a type of legalism to return to God and thereby policing the behavior of other Israelites.
- The Essenes completely withdrew from the culture by heading deep into the wilderness to escape the paganism of the Romans.
- The Zealots resorted to violence and terrorism in a type of “holy war” with the Romans to cleanse their land from the infidels.
Jesus’ approach to culture was completely different. Jesus engaged the culture through love, service, and sacrifice while being in the presence of His Father. Following his resurrection, Jesus stood among his fearful disciples and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Then Jesus told his disciples to receive the Holy Spirit (v. 22).
Jesus came offering a different type of response for his followers towards the Roman world – to send them into the world filled with the Holy Spirit, just as His Father had sent him. Jesus’ vision is for his disciples to live the life of the Kingdom in the presence of a hostile culture through love and redemptive participation. Jesus calls us to be a creative minority.
The Origin of Creative Minority
Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, first coined the term creative minority in his twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations entitled “A Study of History.” Toynbee defined a creative minority as a small group of people who adapt, innovate, stick together and then bless the host culture at large.
An Example of a Creative Minority
Jonathan Sacks, a British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, and theologian, wrote an essay in 2014 entitled, “On Creative Minorities.” Sacks demonstrated how the Jewish people are an example of a creative minority.
Regarding Israel, John Mark Cromer comments, “After two and a half millennia, literally 26 centuries, of displacement, oppression, racism, the Holocaust, not only are they still a people, still an ethnic group – which is absolutely mind-boggling. There are no Assyrians left. No Babylonians left. No Hittites left. No Philistines left. Everybody is gone. The Jews are still a people. But, not only that, their fingerprints are all over the Western world.”
Being A Creative Minority
As I mentioned in my previous post, the way in which we respond to our current post-Christian culture is to be a creative minority. Jon Tyson takes the concept of a creative minority and links it to the Kingdom of God in the following definition:
“A Creative Minority is a Christian community in a web of stubbornly loyal relationships, knotted together in a living network of persons who are committed to practicing the way of Jesus together for the renewal of the world.”
By becoming a creative minority, we will develop a godly resilience to society by living countercultural as followers of Jesus who deny ourselves, re-enthrone God over our lives, and pledge our alliance to “Jesus is Lord” while blessing the world around us.
The Challenge of Being a Creative Minority
Being a creative minority in the midst of culture is not merely an ideology, a Facebook Page you like, or an online discussion group. Returning to Jesus’ comment above, a creative minority is a people empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the redemptive works of Jesus in a world opposed to the King.
Rather than separating ourselves from or being assimilated into the culture, the church must return to the radical middle as a prophetic voice in a dark, confused, and deceived world.
However, as church history testifies to, this is not an easy task.
Jonathan Sacks warns us, “To become a creative minority is not easy because it involves maintaining strong links with the outside world while staying true to your faith. Seeking not merely to keep the sacred flame burning, but also to transform the larger society of which you are a part.”
It is very challenging to stay faithful to God and practice the way of Jesus in our world. But it has always been that way. That is what the story of Daniel is about – how to maintain your identity in God, follow your calling, and thrive as an exile in a culture that is hostile to the ways of Jesus.
So, what does it look like for us, as Jesus’ disciples, to live as a creative minority in today’s modern-day Babylon? To help answer this question, we will return to the story of Daniel in our next post and let Daniel and his friends guide us in understanding how we can impact our world as a creative minority for Jesus.
For now, I want to close with these prophetic words from Karl Barth, “The church exists to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to the world’s own manner and which contradicts it in a way that is full of promise.”
As the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us.