I believe in standing up for the
things you deem sacred and true. We are
losing our religious freedom in America largely because those who benefit from
it most are protecting it least. Many
within organized Christianity in this country say that religious activism is
both unsavory and uncouth. They believe
the job of the Church is specifically to save the lost and therefore anything
not directly related to that task is unwarranted and unjustified. Love, they say, is the only thing the Church
Theologically there is so much wrong with that viewpoint
that reams of paper would hardly suffice to adequately respond. I would simply point out the following:
first, a majority of those who were aware of Jesus and His ministry throughout
the Holy Land believed the travelling Rabbi was unsavory and uncouth. Yet, He wasn’t so starved for professions of
faith that He gave people what they wanted rather than what they needed. It was rather easy to get people to scream
“Crucify!” and what does that imply about their view of His work and
ministry? Should He have abandoned His
message and style to attract more people?
Second, the job of the Church is not to save the lost. When Peter made his ‘great confession’ about
the identity of Christ, one of the first things Jesus said was, “You did not
learn this from any human being” (Matthew 16:17b New Living Translation). The
Church has been commissioned and
empowered to make disciples but the salvation of the human soul is strictly a
Divine business. As Paul noted to the
church in Corinth, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it,
but it was God who made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NLT). It seems to me that
those who complain about ecclesiastical activism hold an awfully high view of
themselves and their abilities.
Finally, the idea that the Church should only actively
promote love demonstrates a rather small and narrow view of love. What people generally mean when saying love
is all the Church should promote is that Christianity is all about
acceptance. This view suggests that all
the Church really has to do is make people feel good about themselves by
proclaiming love. But doesn’t John 3:16
say that “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so
that everyone who believes in him will not perish…”? Simply put, Godly love is all about
transformation. It’s not about
affirmation. The reasons many give for justifying
their lack of religious activism seems to be to be nothing but a cover for
their fear of getting involved and a cloak for their spiritual laziness.
Yet despite my full-fledged belief in Christian activism I
must also acknowledge why I believe it is only having a minimal effect on
society. Lack of prayer. Back to the “great confession” for a
moment. No sooner had Peter shown
absolute theological clarity by rightly identifying Jesus as “the Messiah, the
Son of the living God” he was roundly condemned by Jesus as “Satan” for his lack of vision concerning
the just revealed task of the Son of God…to die for the sins of humankind (see
Matthew 16:16-27). Theological clarity
did not equate to functional acceptance of the will of God. Similarly, understanding that the Scriptures
teach that believers are to let the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine
so that “it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15) does not
translate into functionally accepting and practicing that everything done in
God’s name and for the sake of His Kingdom must be bathed and saturated in
prayer! The Apostle Paul said, “Never stop
praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
There is no point in going on for pages and ages about what
Scripture says about the requirement and potency of prayer. Let it just be said that all the things
Christians do for the right reasons will never be able to accomplish what they
could without being prayed over in what Scripture calls “[T]he earnest prayer
of a righteous person” (James 5:16b).
Peter was right to call Jesus the Messiah but wrong to suggest there had
to be a better way for the Messiah to do the work of God. Christian activism is right to stand front
and center going toe to toe with purveyors of sin but wrong to think the mere
act of opposing sin can be triumphant without the time and effort spent of prayer.
Although the Apostles had been given specific instructions
and powers by Jesus to cast out demons they failed to give a particular man’s
son relief from demonic torment. Jesus
promptly cast out the demon and the Apostles asked Him why they had failed to
do what He had given them power to do.
He responded about a lack of faith and then added, “this kind [of demon]
won’t leave except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Imagine that.
Commissioned by God to do a task but unable to fulfill what was clearly
His will because of a lack of prayer.
One of the most powerful quotes about prayer (attributed to many
sources) makes sense here: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed,
but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Whether it was John Bunyan or A.J. Gordon who
initially said that I do not know. But
Christian activists today who sincerely want to change the direction culture is
heading need to take it to heart.
Activism without prayer merely stirs the pot. Prayer without activism isn’t sincere. But the Christian activist bent on exposing
evil (Ephesians 5:11) and willing to put forth the effort in laborious
heartfelt prayer…that is the person who is practicing empowered activism and
will surely change the world.
Ray Rooney, Jr.