Featured on our list of top 15 authors to watch in 2015, David Platt has written numerous books, including What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? and Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. Platt’s new release, Counter Culture, tackles hot-button social issues present in the world today and how Christians can address them. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about his new book and what is means to live counter-culturally.
You’ve written quite a few books that aim to inspire Christians to break away from comfort zones within their faith (as seen in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.) Were there any encounters or events in your life that initiated this desire to write, preach, teach, and be active on the topic of “uncomfortable Christianity”?
I was immersed in comfortable Christianity. Years ago, I found myself living what seemed like the American church dream—pastoring a large church, living in a large house, and surrounded by all the comforts this world has to offer. But inside I had a sinking feeling that I was missing the point. When I read the Word, I saw a cost to following Christ that I knew little of in my own life, and I saw an urgency for mission that was virtually absent from my own life. At that time, God used his Word and a renewed awareness of urgent spiritual and physical need around me in the world to awaken my heart in a fresh way to who he is and what he has called his people to do in this world. As I looked at material and spiritual poverty in the world around me, including approximately 2 billion people who haven’t even heard the gospel, I knew that I needed to make some major changes in my life. This prompted a journey that began to affect me, my family, and the church I pastored, and Radical was the overflow of that journey.
What does it mean for Christians to live counter-culturally? And why is it important?
In Luke 9:23, Jesus makes an extremely counter-cultural statement. He says to potential disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In a world where everything revolves around yourself—protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself—Jesus says, “Crucify yourself. [Click to tweet!] Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you.” From the very beginning, then, the Christian life involves going against the grain of the culture around (and for that matter, within) us. It is a daily discipline for Christians to die to themselves and to live for Christ with conviction, compassion, and courage, particularly in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and the church.
In Counter Culture you discuss quite a few hot-button issues, such as pornography, poverty, racism, abortion, and same-sex marriage. How can Christians address and come into contact with these issues in a Christ-centered way?
We need to begin by believing what the Bible says about these issues. We need to know what the Bible says about abortion and marriage, poverty and slavery, and we need to see how all of these issues fundamentally relate to the gospel. Conviction from the Word then must lead to courage in the world, for actually believing the Bible is increasingly costly in our culture. And while we stand with conviction and courage, we must live with compassion. Amid a world with massive social needs around us, ranging from desperate poverty and orphan crises and millions of girls being trafficked for sex, to the degradation of marriage and the abortion of babies, we need to speak and act with selfless love on all of these issues.
You make the point that some social issues are easier for the church to address, such as poverty and slavery, than others. Why do you think this is?
On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.
What inspired you to choose the topics you unpack in Counter Culture?
Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, said, “It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Consequently, my goal in Counter Culture was to identify nine of the most pressing social issues in our day, and to bring the gospel to bear on each of them. Admittedly, there are other social issues that could have been addressed and may need to be addressed in the days to come, but poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, slavery, marriage, sexual morality, pornography, religious liberty, racism, immigration, and the unreached seem most pressing.
How can Christians stay encouraged to be engaged and act with compassion when it comes to tough issues in today’s culture?
Every Christian has unique opportunities to engage the most pressing social issues of our day by praying, proclaiming the gospel, and participating with God in all that he is doing in the world. We act, though, not under a utopian illusion that you or I or anyone or everyone together can rid this world of pain and suffering. That responsibility belongs to the resurrected Christ, and he will do it when he returns. But until that day, we do with an undivided heart whatever God calls us to do. Some will say that these social problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference.
In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But we can’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So we act with the unshakable conviction that God has put us in this culture at this time for a reason. He has called us to himself, he has saved us by his Son, he has filled us with his Spirit, he has captured us with his love, and he is compelling us by his Word to counter our culture by proclaiming his Kingdom, not worried about what it will cost us because we are confident that God himself is our great reward.
What does it look like for you to live counter-culturally? How do you escape “comfortable Christianity”? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to download Counter Culture by Daivd Platt and start reading!