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I just finished reading the Old Testament. It’s amazing how many times Israel failed to live up to a simple command: “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9). Israel’s perpetual problem was adopting the values and practices of surrounding cultures.

It seems obvious to identify Israel’s issues because we don’t face the same cultural issues. Not many of us are tempted to worship Baal, or to sacrifice our children as offerings. But we’re tempted to mimic the surrounding culture’s values and practices, and it’s just as dangerous.

Here are three cultural values we tend to follow. We’re mostly blind to these, but they’re deadly.

Be Yourself

Our culture values authenticity. You be you. Take your own individual journey. Look within to your own core feelings and intuition, and let them guide you. Don’t let anyone question your right to be you.

This view has become so mainstream that we don’t question it. “This cultural view of expressive individualism has become the moral wallpaper of the modern world,” writes Jonathan Grant in Divine Sex. It’s the theme of almost every Disney movie and self-help book. And yet it’s a radically new view, and one that runs counter to Scripture.

After all, Scripture often contradicts our deepest impulses. It calls us not to look within but outside of ourselves so we can know what’s true and right. It gives us good reason to question our own intuition. It calls us to die to ourselves.

Our churches are full of people who’ve adopted the cultural message of being true to ourselves. Surprisingly, sometimes our churches even reinforce this value. We must help people identify why this value is not only wrong but deadly, and call them to a better way.

Question Authority

I recently witnessed security stop a woman who had a water bottle, a prohibited item at that stadium, explaining that it wasn’t allowed. “I’m taking it in!” Security watched helplessly as she snatched the bottle and entered the venue.

This makes sense, because one of our main cultural values is to question authority. Nobody can tell you what to do. It’s a corollary to the first cultural value, to be yourself. We have a right, a responsibility, to stand up to those who infringe on our personal freedom with their rules or opinions. Those who claim to have authority are just making power plays, and we must resist.

But we are under authority, according to Scripture. We answer to God. We are to submit to the commands he’s given and to the authority structures he’s placed over our lives, including parents, bosses, government, and church leaders. Scripture sees submission as the job of every Christian, something to be welcomed and not resisted.

Avoid Suffering

Culture teaches that our goal is to maximize happiness and to avoid emotional pain. If something doesn’t make you happy, stop doing it. That goes for relationships, even marriages, work, lifestyle choices, and more.

When people suffer, they often get depressed. Some even commit suicide. It’s therefore unfair to expect anyone to suffer by doing hard things or keeping commitments that no longer make them happy.

But suffering is inescapable. Christians are called to suffer daily for the sake of the gospel, both in our obedience and when we face hostility from others. While we should help others when they suffer, it turns out that we should expect suffering, and that some suffering is good for us.

Many of us are concerned by the way that many are adopting the practices of the culture around us. But we need to back up and start thinking about the values that drive these practices.

Many of us are concerned by the way that many are adopting the practices of the culture around us. But we need to back up and start thinking about the values that drive these practices.

Many in our churches believe they must be themselves, question authority, and avoid suffering. We must recognize these ideas as dangerous. They rob us of our joy and lead us into practices that dishonor God. We must help our people see this, and point to a better way that leads to life: finding our lives by losing them, joyfully submitting to God and others, and suffering for the sake of the one who suffered for us. That is the counterintuitive path to life.