During its first fifteen years, my old software company only worked with domestic clients. In the late nineties, we landed Oxford University Press (a terrific feather in our cap), and a few years later, a French company approached us.
Actually, they approached two U.S. software companies. For the next six months, both companies passionately courted the French company, but in the end, the French engaged us. Then our new partner explained to me why we were chosen.
They said that their old software solution was custom built with 1980’s features in mind, so it lacked many modern marketing offerings, and it had been repaired so many times they feared it would implode under the weight of its own patches.
When our rival visited Paris, they “oohed and aahed” over the French wine, they praised the functionality of the client’s software, and they complimented the French company for their marketing savvy. They lusted after French style.
When we visited Paris, we spent three days asking each department to describe their biggest problems, and then we spent three days demonstrating our software’s solutions.
My new French friend said, “We were desperate for an answer to our difficulties. Your competitor admired France and tried to get us to like them, whereas your company recognized our needs and offered us remedies.” He ended,
Why would we spend millions of dollars to listen to someone so desperate for our affection?
Sin and Syncretism
More than any other prohibition in the Old and New Testaments, God warns against cultural assimilation—its practices and its idols. Scripture repeatedly commands that we reject the thinking, answers, and gods of the nations around us.
God’s First Commandment is, You shall have no other gods before me, and God incessantly commands Israel both to reject the customs of the neighboring nations and to abhor their practices.
But Israel, like my company’s competitor, panted after the panache of the nations. And the narratives, psalms, and prophets constantly rebuke Israel for their frenzy for that worldly assimilation. Psalm 106 reprimands Israel because:
They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. (vss. 34-35)
Not only does God command us not to mix with the nations, he does so ten times more than he commands us not to commit adultery. In fact, he says that such assimilation is adultery:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Besides, It’s Just Stupid
It’s not that God wants us to live insignificant lives in inconsequential Christian ghettos. In hundreds of passages, he calls his people to be a blessing to the nations. We simply cannot be that blessing when we constantly curry their favor by begging for their blessings.
God has unique answers for sexual desire, sexual identity, low confidence, sadness, happiness, purpose, anxiety, grief, fear, and forgiveness. And God’s answers are different than the world’s. And God’s answers are better. He made us and knows us. Why do we crave answers not of God? Are we trying too hard to be liked?
Attraction is born of distinction and Vive la difference! Apple Corporation flourished when they offered something new; they weren’t your daddy’s IBM. When believers lust after this-world-solutions, we are crying, “Me too. Please like me. I can be cool too.”
Besides, when we pant after the world’s approval, we will be disdained:
What are you doing, O devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and adorn yourself with gold? Why enlarge your eyes with paint?
You beautify yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life. (Jer. 4:30)
Stalking the world may land a date or two, but it will never seal the deal.