We are engaged in a culture war right now. A war not against culture but for culture, one that pits Judeo-Christian values against secularism, materialism, and lots of other ‘isms’. Christians spend considerable time, energy, and money focusing on this struggle, and rightly so. But I wonder, does our zealousness in restoring society sometimes become the main object of our moral and spiritual pursuits, to the detriment of more important spiritual ends?
For instance, do we focus on keeping Christ in Christmas, allowing prayer in our public schools, and protecting the sanctity of marriage more than we focus on heart change at the personal level?
Don’t misinterpret what I’m suggesting. I support keeping Jesus at the center of every part of life, including Christmas; I believe that every student should be able to act on his or her beliefs about prayer, whether at school or elsewhere; and I am a strong supporter of protecting the institution of marriage, especially against the plague of divorce. However, if we only attempt to deal with these problems on the large-scale, we will never be successful.
Real, enduring societal change doesn’t come as a result of just voting the right way or donating to the right groups and then moving on with life. A lasting impact will be made on the moral fabric of our society only when the individuals who make up our families, friend groups, and communities are radically transformed through a relationship with Jesus.
C.S. Lewis said that “we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.” If our primary focus as Christians in America is to restore Judeo-Christian values to society as a whole, we will fall short of accomplishing our goal.
But if we recognize that the individuals around us, the human beings who form society, are the ones whom we should be focusing on, we will accomplish much more than simply restoring good values to society. If we introduce people to the life-changing power of the Cross, we will help them to live transformed lives, creating a moral society, while bringing our families, friends, and neighbors into an everlasting communion with God.
If we aim to lovingly reach individuals, we will be successful. If we keep on trying to solve problems with broad strokes from our brush of Christianity, we will be fighting a losing battle.
The way to transform a society is through engaging those around us. Creating followers of Jesus depends on the way we act, the way we love people; so much of it hinges on the kind words we share, the patience we exhibit, the ‘salt’ we bring to situations around us.
Much of the culture war up to this point has been fought from 30,000-foot perspective. From there we can see the brokenness of society exhibited in many ways. From our position in the sky we can get the full picture of the incredible moral issues leeching the life from our culture.
But our calling is not to stay aloof from the hard situations of life but to parachute down, to meet culture where it is at. We are not called to treat culture as a tangled web of overwhelming problems. We are to see culture as broken, hurting, lost people who need the solution of Jesus, even if they don’t realize it.
Our place is in the trenches, sharing mercy, grace, and love with hurting people. Because let’s face it: God didn’t just watch from above as the world destroyed itself. God loved the world, and Jesus came down to us, to our brokenness and our failure. And he redeemed us, reconciling us to God. Jesus became incarnate.
As Christians we are called to be incarnate images of God’s love in the lives of those around us, helping people to become reconciled with God.
If our main goal is to get a moral or good culture, we will fail. But if we desire to see people transformed and we live as if we truly believe in that transformation, then we will end up with both healed people and a healed society.
And that is a purpose worth striving for.