The Main Stream*
We are all faced in this life with a choice between being in the so-called “mainstream” or not being there. You will hear the word “mainstream” bandied about a lot in your life, and when you do, it will almost always be used in what is called a logical fallacy that argues in favor of something on the bases of “everyone else is doing it”. So if you don’t either do, think and agree with the mainstream that’s supposed to be bad. Unfortunately, this persuades many people to go with the flow because it is man’s natural disposition to want to fit in and be accepted.
But that word, “mainstream”, connotes a river flowing down hill. It is flowing according to the course set by the happenstance of geography; and according to the least amount of resistance. And it is flowing with great force. In the middle of the river the current is strong and that is where the greatest mass of water exists and moves . But then you have the water that is close to the edge that might be flowing slower, or perhaps almost not at all. I think therefore that the word is quite accurate as it describe the masses of humanity. I would also say that I do not want to be in the mainstream, nor do I think that we are called by God to be there. So let us go to the scriptures and see why.
Let us begin with one of my favorites which is 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 have 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. Our thinking is formulated. We think about things according to a framework that is either installed by our culture, or by something else. That framework is constructed out of points of reference from which we make determinations and judgements. Those who are in the middle of the river do not feel the current. Their reference point is the water around them, which appears to be sitting still. Rather it is the river’s edge that is moving. But here God calls us to another set of reference points for our thinking. 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 becomes powerfully obvious.
We also have this gem in 1st John chapter 2:
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 also giving us 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 very much. Their existence reveals to them a different point of reference, and prefer it not be revealed. 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 will experience the ire of this world. But for me, being hated by the “mainstream” is comforting and assuring. It is 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 us also. 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 the world and into an ark that separated him and his family from the “mainstream”, which killed everyone. 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.
And then in 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 does not war against its flesh, but on the contrary, it embraces and celebrates it along with all of its carnal desires. (Romans 1) Rather than war against the flesh, they war against those who do “war against their flesh”. But man knows deep down all is not well. He knows that he is in trouble. So many attempt to console themselves beyond the approval of the masses by adopting the parts of the Christian religion they like. They find consolation by extracting verses from scripture 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 this passage from Revelations, it is a downright terrifying thought that God “has remembered her iniquities”.
There is one passage that is perhaps the most explicit and poignant when it comes to calling people out of the “mainstream”. Jesus is crystal clear in this short passage that following Jesus is not mainstream, and 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 does not push you along with great force. It is quiet and gentle, and there is peace to be found in its midst.
You are 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 the currents. But if you will be found in Christ, while you will not be spared trials and hardships, if you will cling to him 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 that your feet, and our, 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 is happening. Everyday news comes of some church, or man of the church, who has lost his footing and has been swept away. 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.
…so I pray for you. May it be so dear LORD, may it be so.