Where Do We Take Our Cues?
To say that we are living in culture filled with competing voices would be an understatement. How can we figure out what's best in a confusing time like ours? We can start by looking at where we take our cues.
Following Someone's Lead
Recently, I was thinking about this phrase. I began wondering where "taking a cue" came from in the first place, and what it really means.
Apparently “taking a cue” means following the lead of some person or thing. Dating back as far as the 17th century, this phrase refers to actors relying on signals to know when to speak their lines in a theatrical production. It can also mean modeling actions after the example or influence of someone or something else.
But what are cues, anyway? A cue can be “anything said or done, on- or off-stage, that is followed by a specific line or action.” Sometimes visual prompts or well-placed sounds might nudge us to do something. So, taking a cue from others might mean to imitate their behavior or follow their suggestions. A perfect example: online influencers, who give us signals about the best products to buy, the best music to listen to, the premium services to use, and even the most popular views to hold.
Considering the Source(s)
So how do we make sure we take our cues from the right sources?
It’s easy to follow what everyone else is doing around us. Both subtle and overt pressures are literally everywhere we go. They’re imbedded in our culture.
For example, think about the cues we take in about what to think, do, and value whenever we look at our phones; when we consume media and news from any outlet; when there is a pandemic and/or a moral controversy; and when we just want to be entertained. And what about this past election season? Pretty strong messages, right?
We can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid the world around us, since we are each placed in this particular time and place for a reason. But we CAN pause to consider whether we are taking our primary cues from a source that is always good, true, and reliable. When we take our cues from culture alone, we can miss understanding what God has to say to us.
It’s a daily challenge to balance our culture and God’s perspective.
- Our culture says just follow your heart – but God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
- Our culture says don’t offend anyone – but God says, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
- Our culture says do whatever is right for you – but God says, “…If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
- Our culture says to stay safe – but God says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)
You get the general idea.
So, how do we take our cues from the right place during these confusing times? What is the secret to doing this well? There probably isn’t just one right answer.
Perhaps we need to start by finding the balance between what our culture is telling us and what God’s Word says. When we are compelled to do something, we can first ask ourselves, “How does what I am about to do, think, say, or believe line up with what God says?”
Filtering Our Cues
Last summer, I chose to remove Facebook and Instagram from my phone. The reasons for this drastic measure were numerous, including the following:
- I was spending too much time on social media, looking at my phone throughout the day
- I was seeing things friends posted on Facebook and then thinking only about those things when I saw them in person – in other words, we lost sight of what else we might have in common
- I was getting way too riled up about what people I knew and loved were posting politically
- I was embarrassed by how motivated I was to get “likes” for something I posted
Now, about 10 months later, I find that I am not missing social media at all. In fact, I believe my spiritual and personal life has actually grown deeper and richer.
In this day and age, it is so easy to blindly trust headlines, recent academic studies, marketing campaigns, or societal norms first without measuring any of those against what God has to say.
Instead, we can learn to take our primary cues from God, and then ask how His Word relates to our culture (not the other way around). Otherwise, we run the risk of just following the crowd or the most compelling voice at any given moment. Our focus can quickly become limited to what is happening now, in this current moment, leaving us unable to see how our times fit into the full sweep and context of history.
Most importantly, we can lose sight of what it means to look to Jesus as we pursue the best of who we are meant to be and do. Let’s follow HIS cues.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)
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