The Main Stream
We are all faced in this life with a choice between living in the so-called “mainstream” or not living there. You’ll hear the word mainstream bandied about a lot in your life, and many of those times it will be used in a logical fallacy that argues in favor of something on the basis that “everyone else is doing it.” Some folks might even go so far as to suggest that something’s wrong with you, or that you’re otherwise a societal outcast because you have foregone the mainstream way of thinking. Unfortunately, this persuades most to just go with the flow; it is, after all, Man’s natural disposition to want to fit in.
The word mainstream is an analogy based on a river and its currents. In the middle, the currents are strong and that’s where the greatest mass of water exists and moves. But then you have the water that’s close to the edge that’s typically shallower and is generally flowing slower, or perhaps almost not flowing at all. A river also flows according to the course set by the happenstance of geography. It is based on the least amount of resistance headed downhill. As with an actual river, the flow of the collective, societal thought is also flowing with great force. I think, therefore, that the analogy is quite accurate. I would also say that I don’t want to be in the mainstream, nor do I think that we are called by God to be there. We can see this in one of my favorite passages, Romans 12:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
Paul could’ve just as easily used the word mainstream instead of world, because in reality, the main flow of this world is based on how the world thinks. Man’s thinking tends to be formed largely by external forces. We think about things according to a framework that’s installed by the collective ideologies of our culture via the institutions of education as well as the entertainment, music, and news media. That framework then becomes the reference point by which the individual is measured and judged by culture. In the final analysis, you will fit in if you conform your thinking to what culture collectively prescribes, and you won’t if you don’t.
Those who are in the middle of the river don’t feel the current. Their reference point is the water around them, which from their perspective, appears to not be moving at all. Rather, if there is any movement to be noticed, one would have to note the river’s banks.
The culture, in the same way, flows in unison. But God calls us to a different set of reference points. He calls us to touch the bottom of the river, to stand up, and to begin our walk to the edge. But as soon as we attempt to stand, the current around us becomes powerfully obvious.
God gives us this gem in the second chapter of 1st John that speaks of the mainstream, or the world that we can expect to exist around us:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
John is giving us here a contrast between the mainstream and our walk with God. Those in the mainstream love the mainstream. They work hard to appeal to the thinking of the mainstream with all of its lusts, and they are proud of the fact that they “fit in.” They also don’t generally like those who don’t go with the flow, their cries for diversity be damned. If you walk out your life with your feet on solid ground, that is to say, not being “carried about by every wind of doctrine,” (Eph 4:14) you’ll surely experience the ire of this world. But for me, being hated by the so-called mainstream is comforting and reassuring. It’s when I find myself in agreement with this world’s thinking that I become afraid. And that is as it should be because Jesus warns us that the world first hated him and that it will hate those who belong to him just as much. He also warns us to be concerned “when all men speak well of [us].” (Luke 6:26).
The idea of being called out of this world’s way of thinking, as it turns out, is not a New Testament idea. We have God calling Noah out of the world and into an ark that separated him and his family from the mainstream. And again, we see God beginning the operation of redeeming His world by calling Abram out of the world as Abram knew it:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you . . . ” (Gen 12:1)
After God called Abram into his new life, he gave him a new name, Abraham, the progeny of which, many years later through providence, ended up in Egypt. And then God called His children out of Egypt as well. At last, at the end of the scriptures, we see again as we read in the apocalyptic writing of Revelation, God commanding “His people” to “come out” of what might well be considered the mainstream:
“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. “ (Rev 18:3-6)
Remember that the mainstream flows downhill. It doesn’t war against its own flesh; on the contrary, it embraces and celebrates that flesh along with all of its desires. (Romans 1) Rather than waring against the flesh, they war against those who do “war against their flesh.” But Man cannot suppress his deep-down knowledge that all is not well. He knows that he’s in trouble. You’ll find many, therefore, who attempt to console themselves by adopting the parts of the Christian religion that they like. They find consolation by extracting verses from the Bible like the one that promises that God will remember our sins no more. (Heb 8:12) But this promise is clearly only true for those who are hidden in Christ. In the just-quoted passage from Revelations, it’s a downright terrifying thought that God “has remembered her iniquities.”
There’s one passage that is explicit and poignant when it comes to calling people out of the mainstream. Jesus is crystal-clear in this short passage that tells us that following Jesus is not mainstream, and those in the mainstream are not following Jesus:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt 7:13-14)
Not only are we to make our way out of the mainstream, and its thought forms and lifestyles, we are to then walk along a narrow stream, so to speak. The water in this path doesn’t push you along with great force. It’s quiet and gentle, and there’s peace to be found in its midst.
I must say that you’re living in radical times. The battles being waged against God and His law are hot and often. The force of the mainstream, which was impeded for a time in the nation into which you were born, has breached the dam. There are tumultuous times ahead for those in its currents. But if you will be found in Christ, while you will not be spared trials and hardships, you will find your feet always planted on the solid rock that cannot be swept away by the raging torrents.
Dear children, we don’t know how strongly our feet are planted until the floods come. But I pray that you and your parent’s feet will be planted firmly. I pray it often that God would fix us fast to His Son in order that we would not be swept away. All around us, it’s happening. Every day, news comes of some church, or man of the church, who has lost his footing and has been swept up by the mainstream. So as the scriptures point out…
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you. (Ps 91:5-7)
…so I pray for you. May it be so dear LORD, may it be so.