Jesus Christ was the consummate counter-culture communicator.
Consider Matthew 5. Six times he said to the crowds, “You have heard it said…”, laying out the then-current societal norm on various issues. But he followed that up with “But I say unto you…”, clarifying the spiritual, eternal truth on those same issues. He repeatedly took aim at what the culture had told them regarding things such as anger, divorce, promises, and retaliation for the purpose of setting a higher standard—His!
There’s no getting around it. Jesus dismantled man’s wisdom and demonstrated God’s. He was the master orator with divine authority. Not once did he worry about man’s disapproval or wish for the opposite. Satisfying the culture wasn’t his goal. Rather, it was pleasing God.
Ironically, it was in his counter-culture communication about God’s standards that he most clearly showed others their need for God’s solution, which was himself. Think about it—in relaying God’s holy and high expectations regarding the issues of life, everyone who heard him realized they were unable to meet that level of righteousness. It had to be a starkly sobering moment when people who heard him wondered, “What am I going to do? I’ll never measure up.”
That’s why I absolutely love the invitation he gives to the crowds just a little further into his ministry, an invitation to “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus never left people without hope, even when exposing their hypocrisy in his laser-like teaching. He assured them it wasn’t a matter of measuring up, but rather yoking up. And he would be the one in the yoke with them, living his life through them. He was the one who would meet all the requirements for righteousness, and as they were in the yoke with him, they would experience the blessings and benefits of his perfect yoke-bearing. He would do the work, which is why the yoke was easy and the burden was light.
That same promise holds true today for anyone who believes and follows Jesus. At the end of your “It’s never good enough” rope is the hope of Christ’s “It is finished” work. Supernaturally, he will live his life through you, positioning you in himself so that you quit trying harder and start trusting happily. When that occurs, his commandments are not burdensome, but rather a blessing (1 John 5:3). They simply become the avenue through which we display loving obedience to God, not a ladder of accomplishments we’re trying to climb to impress him. That’s a counter-culture life!
If the sound of this cuts against the grain, if it sounds like the opposite of what you normally hear from the world, don’t be surprised. That’s exactly what Jesus does—counters the culture so that people encounter God. And it’s that very counter-cultural Word that proves to be the soul-saving message and life-changing truth we need.