“You’re wasting your time getting involved in politics or culture. It’s all going to burn. It’s a better use of your time trying to get people saved and into the kingdom.”
Ever heard this argument? It’s usually from people who love Jesus and are passionate about preaching the gospel. So there’s usually no question about their motives.
It’s their reasoning powers I question.
Barring a lack of funds, every homeowner I know would repair his or her roof if it leaked. They would repair their car if something were wrong with it. They would see a doctor if they thought something might be amiss, health-wise.
Why bother? After all, these things are “going to burn.” They’re temporary. They are of no value when compared to the value of the kingdom or especially the value of Jesus Christ. Even our bodies are temporary mechanisms for living in a temporary world.
Well, someone might answer, these things do have some value to us. They are temporary provisions, yes, but just because they have no eternal value doesn’t mean they are worthless. Furthermore, we should be good stewards of what God has blessed us with, because our stewardship reflects our faithfulness – or lack of it – before the God who gave us these things to begin with.
So if we would take the time and spend the money and expend the effort to repair these things, why wouldn’t we repair our Republic when it is so clearly broken? Why wouldn’t we labor to heal our culture when it is so clearly and so desperately sick?
Are we to be good stewards of our home but not our government? Is a roof over our heads a blessing from God, but a free land and its liberties not?
Some may resort to arguing that calling a roofer or a mechanic or a doctor is a surefire way to repair what’s broken, but that voting and sending emails and boycotts just do not work.
Fair enough. But what if they did help? Or maybe the problem is we just need to find better ways to do these things. It might be very difficult to find a cure for cancer, but you sure won’t find one if you’re not even looking.
And let’s be honest. Patching a leak on a roof and laying some shingles is a pretty simple exercise. Repairing a nation of 330 million people is a tad bit more complex. Just a tad.
Obviously, preaching the gospel is the primary instrument of the church. But do some of us really believe nothing else affects cultural reality?
I refuse to buy the argument that laws and social customs and Supreme Court verdicts don’t matter. Does anyone seriously think the SCOTUS decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) did nothing to change attitudes in America about school segregation? That the Civil Rights Movement did not alter perceptions about the plight of black people suffering under Jim Crow laws?
These momentous changes did not come as the result of a massive spiritual awakening in the U.S. Instead, court decisions teach us. Customs teach us. Laws teach us.
Paul says in Galatians 3:24 that the Law of Moses “has become our tutor to lead us to Christ.” It was a teacher. Laws teach.
Such powerful teaching tools can instruct us to go the wrong way just as easily. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of this power. Or pick any communist nation and see how easily many people can be led astray.
Israel was warned by God to purge the false gods, idols, and religions from its midst lest the people be led astray. The very existence of lies within nation’s borders would have a corrosive effect on religion and morality. The people would leave one thing and embrace something completely different.
Many of our schools teach our children that it’s perfectly OK to have sex, as long as they use condoms. The proponents of this view argue: High school kids are going to have sex. You can’t stop them or discourage them from doing so. We might as well teach them to be safe.
Yet there was a time when teens by and large did not have sex before marriage. According to the Journal of the European Economic Association (February 2014), in 1900, “only 6% of U.S. women had engaged in premarital sex by age 19.” However, by 2014, 75% had.
So there’s nothing about being a teenager per se that leads to sexual activity, or else the stats wouldn’t have been so low a century ago. In other words, teens aren’t unreasoning animals rutting by mere impulse.
What changed? There were a number of factors, according to the study, but they also pinpoint the increasingly permissive attitudes about premarital sex and “the decline in the shame and stigma associated with it.”
Now, I am not wanting to start an argument about whether shaming is the best approach or whether we should go for contraceptives or abstinence in preventing unwanted pregnancies etc. Instead, I am arguing for the power of law, custom, and moral persuasion to change human behavior. Kids increasingly began having sex because society said it was OK.
If these powerful influences – law, custom, and moral persuasion – can change behavior, why on earth would Christians back away from the public debate over them?
This is not to say that working to repair culture or politics will succeed. Maybe such efforts will, maybe they won’t.
But let’s not be so super spiritual as to argue that we shouldn’t even bother to try.