Cultural Reformation: Where Does It Begin?

New Saint Andrews College has produced a very fine booklet called, 33 Theses on Culture Shaping, in which you will find the following, “If mere Christendom were a town, then the church is the cathedral at the center of town, and its ministry is that of grace and peace. The civil authorities over the town constitute the ministry of justice. And it follows that the families of the commonwealth are the ministries of health, education, and welfare.” If we grasped these divisions and the responsibilities therein we would be in much better shape than we are. We would subsequently have to learn how to appropriate those responsibilities. But, first things first. We must know the ministries before performing the ministries. No egg has ever been scrambled that was not first cracked.

The first thing to mark with a nice thick blue highlighter is that the church ministers grace and peace. And we see just this kind of thing going on in 2 Samuel 9 as King David blesses the undeserving.

The Text – A Summary

Verse 1 says David went looking for a descendent of Saul, not to cut off the house of Saul, but to show kindness to him. This kindness refers to steadfast love or covenant mercy. David showed kindness based upon his prior covenant with Jonathan. Ziba, a servant of Saul’s house, was called to David. Ziba told David that a son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth still lived and he was crippled in his feet (v. 3). 2 Samuel 4 tells us of the tragic day when Mephibosheth became lame. He was 5 years old and news came of the deaths of his father and grandfather, Jonathan and Saul. Mephibosheth’s nurse took him and fled, but she fell and Mephibosheth fell with her. He was lame from that day forward. Ziba told David that Mephibosheth, now old enough to have his own young son, was living in Lo-debar, which means “No-pasture.” 

David sent and brought Mephibosheth (v. 5). Mephibosheth entered and fell on his face before David, acknowledging himself as David’s servant. David replied, “Fear not, for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake” (v. 7). David restored to Mephibosheth the land of his father Saul. David also told Mephibosheth that he would eat at the King’s table. In gratitude and amazement, Mephibosheth wondered that David would show such regard to a dead dog like himself (v. 8).

David called Ziba and informed him that all which belonged to Saul now belonged to Mephibosheth. He ordered Ziba’s sons and servants to work Mephibosheth’s land so that he would have food. Ziba agreed. Mephibosheth ate always at David’s table in Jerusalem like one of the king’s sons. The passage ends by telling us Mephibosheth was lame in both of his feet.

Grace and Peace

If you are going to shape culture, then you will of course need principles. You will not shape anything without standards. But, you will need more than standards. When David arose to the throne, mercy overflowed to Mephibosheth. And so it is with Christ’s ascension to the throne, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The ministry of Moses was glorious, so glorious that Moses had to veil his face. But a ministration has come that far exceeds the old (2 Corinthians 3). 

There is a kind of culture-shaper who is very much like John the Baptist. He was a great man. And he indeed shaped things. He moved several things out of the way that had to be cleared out so that the glory of the Messiah might shine forth. Of him, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you. Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).

When things heat up, as they have been heating up for some time, even good men may find themselves wanting a leader who will burn down the other side. There indeed is a time to call down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10). And there is a time when doing so will result in the following reply from Jesus, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).

So here’s a way to test yourself. When you envision a Mere Christendom, and that is exactly what you should be envisioning, what cathedral is at the center of that town? Do the bells of that cathedral ring with grace and peace? Grace is the only thing that will do. The ministry of grace is the only ministry that will bring peace. The ministry of grace is the locomotive of cultural reformation. And that grace is only found in the Greater David, King Jesus Christ. He was mangled on the cross. He took the judgment upon himself. He rose again from the dead so that lame beggars like you and me, living a wasteland like “Lo-debar,” could feast at his table day after day, world without end.