Short answer: Yes.
Ed Stetzer on his blog on Christianity Today once said this, “Paul explained that he did not call us to “leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10) but rather to “become all things to all men” so as to engage them with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22).”
It’s a simple statement, but it packs in a world of meaning. And in the world of art, there are all sorts of applications.
So let’s unpack it a little bit.
What Does it Mean to Leave the World?
In the context of 1 Corinthians 5:10 from above, Paul is actually telling the church in Corinth to discipline a man who was behaving sexually immorally. He was telling them to kick this man out of the fellowship.
But in verse 10, he uses a juxtaposition to qualify his point. In a paraphrase, he says, “Look, I told you – for people who claim to be Christians, you have got to discipline those who refuse to give up sinful lifestyles. BUT you can’t just go around judging the world or else you’ll have to leave the world.”
Leaving the world means isolating yourself from anyone who doesn’t believe in Christ. It means considering everyone outside the church a lost cause, and saying, “To hell with the world”.
Paul implies that leaving the world, in this sense, is a ridiculous notion.
What Does it Mean to Become All Things to All Men?
Rather, Paul explains, we have to become all things to all men, as stated in 1 Corinthians 9:22 from above. In the context of the passage, he gives examples of ways he personally worked hard to relate to people outside the church.
He said he appealed to his jewish-ness, when he was around Jews, and acted under the law because it was important to them. To the Greeks, he acted as if the law had no hold on him. To the weak of society, those with no influence, no money, no position, Paul lived with them as they lived.
What Does it Mean to Engage in Culture?
For us today, we’ve got to do the same thing: be all things to all men. And this is what it means to engage in culture. We can’t be afraid to cross cultural lines. This is what it means to engage in culture. Or at least it’s the beginning.
Imagine a 21st century American Christian writing that passage in 1 Corinthians 9. We might say something like this:
To Democrats, I became compassionate. To Republicans, I became bold with morality. To Muslims, I acknowledged the God of Abraham. To atheists, I thought scientifically. To agnostics, I appealed to philosophy. To New-Agers, I acknowledged spirituality. To environmentalists, I protected creation. To laborers, I labored. To the average Joe, I lived a normal American life.
What Does it Mean to Engage in Non-Christian Art?
To the artist, I explored art.
Finally, we get to the application at hand.#Art changes #culture. Click To Tweet
The environment of non-Christian art can be quite hostile to a biblical worldview. But that should not deter us from acknowledging its beauty and engaging.
Recognize that art attempts to display humanity in a very raw form. And if nothing else, we are all human, so we should be able to relate.
It’s not a waste.
Paint the gloom and apathy which comes out of materialism and consumerism. Sing about the pain you experience when a loved one leaves you. Create prose which satires the pursuit of happiness. Write an allegorical play about the good and evil within us. Make a sculpture which captures the suffering of racism.
None of that is a waste.
First of all, using your gifts like this is a fulfillment of God’s plan for you, not a hindrance.
Second of all, as you relate to other artists who are making similar art, you’re able to tell them a story – a story they can understand, which is on their terms. If you love Jesus, the gospel will come up, but you don’t need to have a Scripture reference plastered on all your work to make sure everyone knows “this is about the bible!”.
Third of all, art changes culture. As you describe the human condition, it influences the discussions of the people. Work to make your art bold and full of expression so that it rises above the noise in society.Change the #city with your #creativity. #faith Click To Tweet
The gospel expresses itself, and therefore can be expressed, through many abstract concepts, such as salvation, restoration, reconciliation, love, sacrifice, suffering, and more. You could spend an entire artistic career on one of these subjects, so don’t worry about source material.
Be the bridge between man and Jesus. Let your works of art explain the relationship between humanity and the divine. But if you spend more time on the humanity side, that’s okay, too.
Change the city with your creativity.
Be all things to all men. Be an artist.