Living in a Cancel Culture: A Prayer for Discernment

As the world has grown increasingly hostile to God and more openly indulgent of its fleshly desires, navigating situations within our families, workplaces, communities, and even churches has become foggy and confusing. Do we let our kids watch the movie with that agenda-pushing scene? How do we talk to our elementary-aged child when a classmate decides to switch pronouns? Should we attend the diversity and inclusion training session at work? Do we boycott businesses that choose to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights?

Though it would be nice to have a how-to manual for each situation we’re likely to encounter, we actually have something better. God’s inspired Word is sufficient to help us think through every question. Though Scripture may not give you a script for how to talk to your daughter who is considering transitioning or exactly what to say when a loved one “comes out,” it does contain all we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). What we desperately need is discernment in how to apply the principles of God’s Word to these difficult situations. As usual, when we open the pages of Scripture, we learn that our modern circumstances aren’t as unique as we think. Paul was praying for the Philippians in the first century the same prayer that you and I need today. 

And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)

Abundant Love

The Philippian church had its problems (like yours and mine), but it had not completely gone off the rails. Paul wrote to this church, not with specific doctrinal errors or course-correction in mind, but because he wanted to thank them for their generosity (4:10). However, as he writes this inspired thank-you note, he includes a prayer for these beloved saints. The first thing on his prayer list? That they abound more and more in love. 

Paul knew and preached the importance of love. He told the Corinthian church that the greatest spiritual gifts and acts of service they could imagine would be completely worthless if done without love. Speaking in the language of angels would sound like nothing but clanging brass if done without love (1 Cor. 13:1–3). Christ Himself emphasized love, saying that loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37–40).

Likewise, our society today readily emphasizes love. However, it tends to equate love with acceptance, creating a false dichotomy between disagreeing with a person’s viewpoint and being able to show them love. We must pray for abundant and overflowing love, but we cannot confuse Scripture’s definition with the world’s. God tells us that love, along with being patient, kind, and humble, “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:3–6). It’s this type of love that we want to fill our hearts to the point of running over. 

Every Kind of Discernment 

Paul doesn’t stop his prayer for the Philippians with the request for abundant love but continues by asking that their love would grow in tandem with their knowledge and discernment. 

Blogger Tim Challies provides a helpful definition of discernment: “The skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”1

In our contemporary society, ideas about truth—or the lack thereof—and right versus wrong swirl in the air like leaves on a windy fall day. Without the plumbline of truth, an irrefutable standard, we can get so lost that we can’t distinguish up from down or right from wrong. Thus, we need the ability to return to Scripture to test an idea, problem, or situation in order to discern how to respond.

We cannot blindly trust our hearts, our social media accounts, or even our favorite preacher. Certainly, seeking spiritual counsel may be a wise and helpful thing to do in confusing situations; however, we must take even the counsel we get and compare it with Scripture. If it deviates from truth, we must discard it. That’s discernment. 

This is what Paul prays for the Philippians, and it’s what we ought to pray for ourselves, our pastors, our families, and our friends. We need ever-growing love and ever-increasing discernment to navigate a culture in which “right” and “wrong” seem to have lost all meaning.

Approval of the Excellent

Paul prays for a specific end result of this love and discernment as well, asking that the Philippians abound in love and discernment so that they may approve what is superior. We cannot approve of everything. To do so would be to approve of nothing. If all that people call “truth” is true, then, as many would agree, there is no truth at all. Of course, if I claim that there is no truth, how can I be certain that my statement about truth is true? 

We need loving discernment in order to know what is best, what is superior, what is worthy of our approval. What will we endorse with our money, time, presence, or attention? What will we give our kids a green light for and approve of; and what will we caution them against? What type of counsel will we give to curious, naïve hearts? We must approve only of “superior” things—those actually worthy of God’s approval. 

I’m sure that sounds every bit as daunting and foreboding to you as it does to me. That’s why we persist in prayer, that God grants us hearts that love and can discern truth from error. We desperately need these things so that we can approve only of what is truly superior. 

Pure and Blameless

The final piece of the prayer that Paul offers on behalf of his Philippian friends is that they be “pure and blameless.” Of course, he recognizes that they won’t attain sinless perfection before the “day of Christ.” Instead, he’s asking that they have reputations above reproach—that when someone inspects their closet, no skeletons will appear. He desires that they, as he exhorted the Ephesians, “walk worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). 

If we approve of and walk according to the “ways of this world,” we sell the gospel short and show that our hearts don’t truly recognize Christ as King but, instead, maintain allegiance to the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:1–3). Compromising the gospel and the truth of Scripture for fear of being “canceled” or in the name of being on the “right side of history,” is choosing to forfeit our purity and blamelessness before God. 

I can’t pretend that this is an easy choice: societal pressure is real and, at times, painful. For this reason, Paul labored in prayer for his partners in the gospel. He knew the difficulty of their situation, just as the Holy Spirit knows the difficulty of ours.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but whether you’re in the thick of a prickly situation that demands discernment, or if one is waiting for you just over the horizon, let’s pray for ourselves and each other that

[our] love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that [we] may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)

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 Tim Challies, “Defining Discernment,”, February 8, 2007,

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at

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