Christianity's Five Most Countercultural Virtues
Why the teachings of the Bible are still so radical.
Many Christians present the Gospel to non-believers using a strategy that emulates the secular world. They adopt trends, styles and behaviors to repackage biblical truths to fit cultural norms.
This isn’t all bad—and is sometimes even necessary for the advancement of the Gospel—but cultural accommodation can become so idolized that Christianity loses its uniqueness. But, the core of our faith produces characteristics that are entirely unique.
Here are five Christian virtues that continue to be radically countercultural:
“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25 ).
In a world obsessed with real-time data, fast-developing news stories, viral momentum and constant movement, it’s become increasingly hard to wait—simply to be still.
Being patient is a countercultural act of trusting in God and accepting the fact that some things are beyond our control.
When our society values continuous work, efficiency, action and interaction while also trivializing rest, silence and stillness, it can be increasingly difficult to step away from everything. Unplugging, taking a break, waiting and listening for God to speak is a surprisingly radical accomplishment.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 ).
We live in a noisy culture that rewards those who are the loudest, most flamboyant and noticeable. Rants, arguments, yelling and splashy disruptiveness are the new norm.
Even the Christian message has been co-opted by arguing factions fighting to become the most powerful, influential and visible, but through this process they prove themselves to be an ordinary and mediocre variation of the world around them.
Sensationalism is how our society markets, advertises and communicates within an environment that values fame, recognition and attention.
But meekness isn’t a form of weakness. It’s actually a unique source of strength, allowing people to not be susceptible to populist hate, mainstream rage, reckless hyperbole, irrational fear, foolish violence, ignorant propaganda, racist rhetoric and systemic injustice.
Being gentle and quiet within a frenzied civilization that’s quick to judge, accuse, worry and destroy allows us to center ourselves upon God. Meekness proves itself by working and serving without seeking personal recognition while simultaneously glorifying God—a profoundly extraordinary act of worship.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 ).
Technology and social media have enabled us to present a gilded mirage of ourselves, consisting of edited photos, perfect quotes, fun experiences and opinionated posts.
We are constantly told to be unapologetically bold, proud and unashamed of our beliefs and behaviors. But it’s easy to be egotistical and arrogant about our political views, theological positions, religious traditions and social worldviews.
Rarely are we taught to respectfully listen, obediently learn, politely dialogue, genuinely apologize or admit we were ever wrong. Acknowledging our faults, embracing our limitations, and living with a humble attitude require uncommon self-control and bravery.
Humility remains a remarkable trait within a celebrity culture that reveres fame and continually stresses the value of exalting our own ego.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ).
After relationships have failed us, communities have hurt us, institutions have betrayed us, organizations have manipulated us, governments have disappointed us and religions have damaged us, it’s hard not to be cynical and pessimistic about pretty much everything.
But for those who have an attitude of hope inspired by Jesus, there’s a sense of meaning, purpose and optimism toward life. This hope, despite the chaos of an ever-changing world around us, anchors us to Christ—allowing us to navigate through life even though it’s filled with uncertainty.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
In an infinitely complex universe filled with unlimited perspectives, it’s hard to believe in anything. Thus, it’s becoming less common for people to hold passionate convictions about any person, thing, idea or philosophy.
Faith doesn’t mean there’s an absence of doubt, mystery, or complexity, but it allows you to have confidence in something—a relationship with someone. To invest your trust and hope in any one thing is notable enough, but to have faith in an unseen, unquantifiable, supernatural God is one of the most countercultural acts imaginable.