To what extent should we as a church conform to our culture? That’s a very tough question, and it’s a similar problem to what was taking place in Judah in Zephaniah’s day:
7 Be silent before the Lord GOD!
For the day of the LORD is near;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
8 And on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
9 On that day I will punish
everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
with violence and fraud.”
Two statements stood out to me the most. The first was that God condemns the governors of Judah for wearing foreign clothes (v. 8). I don’t think this was prohibited in the law per se; rather, it sounds like it the wearing of foreign clothes is an outward sign of an inward focus on looking like the surrounding nations. Whenever our primary concern is to look like the unbelieving culture around us, we have (metaphorically) made foreign attire a priority rather than following the Lord.
The second statement was that God would punish “everyone who leaps over the threshold” (v. 9). A couple of sources I looked at drew my attention to 1 Samuel 5:5, where stepping over the threshold is mentioned as a custom of the Philistines in honor of their god, Dagon. So the people of Judah have adopted a foreign religious practice, mixing the Lord’s commandments with those of idols. This is syncretism at its finest.
Obviously, we should seek God’s approval, not man’s (Galatians 1:10). This is very hard for me since the fear of man is very powerful in my life; I want other people to love and respect me. Often, I forget that it’s more important to show love to others in my speech than to come up with a clever thing to say. On an individual and corporate level, we have to remember that often what is pleasing to God will end up being inconvenient, difficult, and countercultural. It affects what we say, how we say it, how we dress, how we spend our money, how we spend our time, how we treat those who rub us the wrong way, even the way in which we think. The gospel calls for total transformation, and the fear of man is not compatible with it.