For many years now, America has experienced a marked moral decline. The decline has been especially steep in the last two or three decades. Within the last six years we have witnessed this decline advancing at an accelerated rate as evidenced by the reclassification and elevation of sexual immorality to the status of a so-called “right.” Further proof of the normalization and the legislated protection of immorality can be found in the finely-orchestrated, well-funded, and unrelenting attacks against religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
In light of the crumbling foundations of society around us, what are conservative people of faith to do? Should we remain silent, hide away in a Christian bunker (literally or figuratively), or keep our head down and hope that no one notices us? No! None of these options are effective and, in fact, they only serve to embolden our adversaries. Yet in large part, these are the feeble tactics we have employed; tactics that have allowed immorality to steamroll our nation.
As I see it, there are two significant reasons why America, a nation founded on Biblical principles, is experiencing such great moral decline: fear of man vs. fear of God, and a lack of understanding within the Body of Christ.
Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the “fear of man brings a snare ….” Far too many Christians, including church leaders, remain silent about the cultural rot that surrounds us. Most remain silent because they are apprehensive or anxious about what others will say or think if they voice a biblically sound, but unpopular or politically incorrect, opinion on a hot-button issue. The last thing these believers want is to be drawn into a heated debate, lose a friend, or step on any toes. They could easily co-opt Saul’s weak excuse for violating the Lord’s command and Samuel’s instruction, “I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them” (1 Samuel 15:24).
Sadly, many Christians today are more afraid of offending men than they are of disobeying or angering God.
The following true story aptly illustrates the tension between fear of man vs. fear of God. A former lesbian and close acquaintance of mine used to be part of a ministry at a well-known Chicago area megachurch. By the power of Jesus, she became a new creation in Christ — praise God! Her heart, mind, and sexual behavior were completely transformed, and she began to minster to others who were suffering from unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction by serving in a ministry at this mega-church, reaching out to those with unwanted same-sex attractions.
Unfortunately, a few years ago the church pulled the plug on this effective ministry. Their explanation? Church leaders didn’t want to “offend” any of the LGBT people who attended their services.
Clearly the leaders of this church made a conscious decision that the fear of man trumps the fear of God. If the apostle Paul were in the midst of this leadership, I would imagine he would confront them in much the same manner as he confronted the Galatians when he questioned which Gospel they were preaching and following, asking them whether they were now seeking to please and win the approval of man or of God. Moreover, Paul stressed that any believer who still aimed to please man would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:6-10).
Yes, the Gospel is offensive. Truth is offensive. Articulating Gospel truth may mean alienating people and perhaps causing them to leave and never return. Such is the price of honesty and obedience to truth. Matthew’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. This man sincerely wanted Jesus to answer his question: what must he do to inherit eternal life? But Jesus’ answer was neither what the man wanted nor expected to hear. In spite of his earnestness and sincerity, he was not ready to hear the truth and, sadly, walked away.
Yet, because someone might be offended by the truth or not ready to receive it, we are not absolved of our responsibility to speak it. Scripture encourages us to speak the truth in love, and also to speak up because of love — the love God has lavished on us and the love we have for Him. We need to set aside our fear of man (fear of offense, rejection and ridicule) and defend biblical principles, articulating the truth with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers because sin and death and hell are real.
If we avoid or refuse to talk about the issues of the day: abortion, sexual immorality, addictions, the erosion of religious liberty, same-sex marriage, and the demise of natural families, we are acting in an unloving manner and neglecting an opportunity to share the Gospel — the Good News of the love, peace, joy, and hope that we have found in following Jesus.
Apart from the words of Scripture, perhaps Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed our responsibility to our fellow man the best when he said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Our nation needs to hear the truth that a continuing moral decline is neither desirable nor inevitable. There is a better Way and an absolute Truth that leads to eternal Life.
Now is our time to speak and now is our time to act.