Should Christians Legislate Family Values? WWJD?

Some History In the 70’s, Evangelicals like myself followed the same path mainline liberals had taken. Troubled by legalized abortion, we began lobbying legislatures. Now I ask myself why we took this approach. Liberals failed to change society’s attitudes of race and social justice through political action. What made us think we would succeed?

In the 80”s James Dobson led the fight against the sexual revolution. He sought to get legislation passed limiting overt sexuality in media and pornography. Many of us hopped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon. One reason was to protect our kids from rampant immorality. So, how did we do? Are things better? More importantly—What Would Jesus Have Done?

1)  God or Caesar Did Jesus teach us we could change public morality by cooperating with Caesar, i.e. the government?  He said  “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:21). Did he mean we should make Caesar our ally? Has our enormous investment in the political process paid off? Has society’s sexual values and behavior improved for the better over the last 40 years? I won’t bore you with the sad statistics. Can we just agree America’s sexual behavior is much worse now than then?

2) If the Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over with only negative results, why do we keep appealing to Caesar?

3) Should We Give Up? Absolutely not. He told his church “You are the light of the world… You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5: 13, 14) In Jesus day salt’s major function was to preserve. He expected his people would not only preserve society good values, but improve them. We just need to render the things that are God’s by following Jesus’ methods, not Caesar’s to preserve and improve family values.

4) Can the Church Change Public Morality? Absolutely, and there are many examples. The best one is the how the early church transformed a culture far worse than ours. We complain about our woes, but consider theirs! They faced the Roman world, rampant with lascivious idolatry, public debauchery, deadly circus games, cruel slavery and a culture where men ruled families with an iron fist. Historians agree the church was a major factor. Gradually, like salt infiltrating and flavoring food, these terrible things grew out of favor in the empire. In fact, paganism and idolatry vanished altogether.  How did they do it?

5) Attraction Not Promotion. The first church is our model. We can make a difference by doing what they did. Luke makes it clear how turned to Jesus by:

  • Obeying his command to: “love one another” (John 13: 37-39; 15: 12, 19)
  • Following his strategy to: “be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)
  • Pursuing his commission to: “make disciples”(Matthew 23:20)

3) Being Before Doing or Saying: What did Christ mean by, “You shall be my witnesses?” (Acts 1:8). The first church needed no political action committee or evangelism campaign. They didn’t give classes in effective witnessing. They turned their world upside down by who they were and how they behaved among themselves. They earned credibility by their example before they took action to change their world. What were these things?

  • They demonstrated genuine love for God and obeyed his word: They devoted themselves to obeying what the apostles’ taught…and breaking of bread and prayers…praising God.” (Acts 2:42, 47)
  • They had a united front— Translators say it in many ways: ”they were in one accord”; “complete agreement of heart and soul;” “they were of one heart and mind.” (Acts 1:14; 2: 1, 46; 4:24; 5:12).
  • They had a joyful sense of community: they broke bread in one another’s home with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:46).
  • They took care of one another: “A wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them (Acts 2:45.)
  • They had a great reputation: “they won the favor of all the people.” What was the result? “The Lord added to their number daily (Acts 2:47). That’s the wonderful part. They became fruitful and grew—more by attraction than promotion and without evangelism campaigns or political action committees.

They showed how God’s love worked, both among themselves and with their neighbors. Outsiders marveled, “Look at those Christians,” they said, “how they love one another!”

What To Do?

  • We can encourage and pray for our leaders
  • Ask them to give up politics to use their gift to help local churches cooperate with one another to make a difference in our world.
  • We can turn the tide by our example of right relationships, right living and a spirit of love for our neighbor and one another.

Let us pray our leaders will help us demonstrate a united moral front to our world.

We value your insights and comments. Please join the conversation

Do Christians Need More Political Clout?

When I was a member of the liberal church, we spent hours debating and voting on  resolutions to legislatures supporting leftist causes and opposing racism and greed. At the time I wondered, what would the  apostles think of this method to improve public morality?

In the 70’s, Evangelicals joined the political game by actively lobbying to make abortion illegal, not just for believers, but for everyone. Later James Dobson led the fight to get legislation passed against the sexual revolution, including sexuality in the media and  pornography.  This was done largely to protect America’s families and children from growing promiscuity. Many Evangelicals, including myself, hopped on the Focus on the Family bandwagon. How did we do?

Now candidate Trump woos religious conservatives, promising them more political clout by repealing an old law prescribing tax penalties for religious groups who get involved in politics. Many of our leaders applaud this, but is this really a good thing for the cause of Christ? And what has been the fruit of this push by Christians to change public morality through political action?

  • Results The liberal church made no dent in eliminating racism and greed. How about our Evangelical efforts in the political ring? Has America’s morality improved over the last 40 years? Can we point to any real gains in issues of abortions? How about homosexual marriage, pornography and sexual morality in general?
  • History  And what does history teach us about Christian crusades to improve public morality by political means? Consider prohibition, the largely Christian movement which resulted in getting a constitutional ban on alcohol passed in 1920. How did that work out?  We’ve heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, failing each time,  yet continue to expect different results. Isn’t that us?
  • Reputation. How do folks outside the church view us today? Does the man in the street see us as a positive force for morality or as sanctimonious spoil sports—self-appointed policemen of the bedroom?
  • Mission. When believers campaign against sin in elections, in public courts and political arenas, are we truly obeying Christ’s command to love one another and make disciples?  Do we demonstrate our love for God and our fellow-man by demonstrating against sin?
  • Job Description Is it the job of the Christian church to convince the world of sin? “When the Holy Spirit  comes, he will show the people of the world how wrong they are about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment.” (John 16:8) Is it possible we try to play God when we shout our indignation to an unsaved world at how badly they are behaving?
  • Our Children. We got into this fight for them. Is our world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren? Are we winning our youth to Christ or turning them off?
  • Membership. Has the church gained or lost members over the last 40 years?

In short, has our plunge into the political arena stirred the moral conscience of society or is it costing us our authentic witness and losing the ear of the American public?

Our next post addresses the question, “What does Jesus and the apostles say about our modern obsession with politics?”

We value your insights and comments. Please join the conversation.

 

Why Have Evangelicals Jumped on the Trump Bandwagon?

Like many Americans, I’m not happy with our choices for president. But if I do vote for Trump, it’s not because I’m convinced he’s a great Christian or even a great guy. I really don’t know. My vote would be rather against his opponent’s policies, who, like Obama, wants more and bigger government to cure all our ills. Remember how Samuel warned Israel about requesting a king, to be governed like their neighbors? God told Samuel, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (I Samuel 8:7). Are God’s people today looking too much to government to provide for them and to little to God?

Trump wants to be president. He says it’s because, “I want to make America great again.” His latest strategy to woo Evangelicals features choosing an Evangelical, Gov. Mike Pense to be his running mate. He also met with a thousand evangelical leaders, including Billy’s kid, Franklin Graham, Jerry’s boy, Jerry Falwell Jr and Ralph Reed. He apparently won them over by Trump-eting the Bible and shouting his undying love for Evangelicals. He wowed them and vowed them. Among other things, he promised to give Christians more religious freedom and even more political clout than we presently enjoy.

Is He a Wolf in Sheepskin?  I don’t know, but how might we tell if he’s genuine and means what he says? Jesus gave us a tried and true formula:  “By their fruits you shall know them.”[Matt. 7:16]. One paraphrase puts it this way,  “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with charisma and practiced sincerity. They are out to deceive you. Don’t be impressed with their words but with their character. It’s not what they say that’s important, it’s how they behave.”  

He’s a great talker. At the very least, we should be wary of giving him our Christian imprimatur. So far his speeches have included many words ballyhooing the Bible, but has he personally confessed Christ as his savior? What actions of his can we point to that demonstrate he’s genuine? Again, I can’t, but neither do I believe him just because he says so.  There are a few things that should raise some red flags however.

Have we forgotten the statement he made while campaigning against his rival, Ted Cruz? I don’t have the exact quote, but I’ll never forget how he put down Cruz’s evangelical faith, assuring his audience that he was not a member of a far-out fringe group like Cruz, but of an old, established, main-line and liberal denomination. Moreover, when he was interviewed by CNN’s Frank Luntz, his answer to whether he ever asked God for forgiveness was, “I’m not sure I have…if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

He brags a lot and seems to lack humility, one of the characteristic Christian virtues. It’s not hard for me to believe that this proud man  ever feels the need to ask God or anyone else to forgive him for his wrongs.

His body language I watched him carefully during his 60 Minutes interview with Governor Pense at his side.  First, he gave his new partner little chance to talk. He dominated and controlled the interview, even interrupting Pense more than once.  I saw how Pense tried several times to get Trump to engage him with eye contact. But he never once really looked at his running mate. His aggressive speech and body language said to me, “I’m not comfortable sharing the stage with him, or anyone else. It’s about me.” We saw this also  by the lack of courtesy he offered his running mate when he introduced him. He used the opportunity instead, to make another speech, ignoring and excluding his new partner, who later ate alone at Chili’s.

“I don’t Lie”  This is a common theme of his. Aren’t we to be wary of those who loudly proclaim their own righteousness while putting down others—in this case Hilary, who he often accuses of being a liar. It stretches my credulity to believe, knowing our common human weakness and sinfulness, that either of them are always truthful. Has this wheeler-dealer who loves “the deal” always been above board, dripping with integrity over each and every transaction he has made?

Like Glen Beck, I have doubts about Trump. I also feel sad that Evangelical leaders have been so quick to endorse him when they really don’t have much evidence that he’s all that he says he is.

We love to hear from you. Please give us your thoughts.

Are You a Fan or a Spectator?

Enthusiastic Participation: Back in the day, on a Friday night in October, football was a big deal. But if you weren’t a player, a coach, a cheerleader or in the band, you were just a spectator. Today sporting events are quite different. As an old comedian used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.” Often we see: fans wearing team colors or crazy  get-ups; macho guys with no shirts in December; painted faces;  “No. 1” fingers and  John 3:16 waving, while everyone does “the wave.” While some of the antics are odd, we can’t help but feel this trend of enthusiastic participation is a good thing. Continue reading

The Man Who Amazed Jesus

Many amazed Jesus by their lack of faith, but only one amazed him by his extraordinary faith. He was a Gentile and an officer in the Roman army.

This centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant who was suffering greatly with paralysis. When Jesus asked him if he should come and heal him, the soldier replied.  “Lord, I do not deserve for you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I  am also a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one‘ Come,’ and he comes.” [Matthew 8:7-9]

 Jesus’ response: “…he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. .” [Matthew 8:10]

Here is how this man showed extraordinary faith

  1. He had no doubts:“my servant will be healed.” .He was convinced Jesus had the power and authority to do what he asked of him.
  2. No barrier of distance to his faith. ”I do not deserve for you come under my roof. What did he mean? Jesus, you have such great power and authority, you can do it from here or anywhere you choose.
  3. He knew the power of the Word: “just say the word.”  He recognized Jesus’ power was not in what he did, but simply in the word of his command.
  4. He grasped the chain of command: — ”I am also a man under authority”, As the centurion was a link in the Roman chain of command, he saw Jesus’ link in Heaven’s chain of command.
  5. He saw the source of Jesus’s power was like his own It rested on his connection to the head of the Roman empire. He recognized Jesus’ power and authority came from his connection to God, the head of the universe.
  6. He showed humility by admitting he had no power within himself.

What does this mean for us?

  1. We are included in Heaven’s chain of command. Jesus called his disciples to him and gave them authority. [Luke 9:1) For the Son of man is like a man who takes a far journey… and gave authority to his servants [Mark 13:34]
  2. We can pray with confidence and authority, trusting not in our selves, but in our connection to Christ. “Without me you can do nothing…If ye remain in me and my words remain in you can ask for anything and it will be given. [John 15: 5, 7]
  3. By declaring and repeating God’s Word when we pray, “thus says the Lord.”
  4. By our humility in serving and obedience to him, we may lay claim to and exercise our authority in Christ.
  •  Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus… He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—Therefore God exalted him [Philippians 2: 5,6]
  • Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. [1 Peter 5:6}
  • “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant[Matthew 20:25,26]

God in the Kitchen

“Lord, is it fair that my sister sits there [at your feet] while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help.”…The Lord answered, “ Martha, Martha, you are in a dither about many things!  Yet only one thing is needful and Mary has chosen it….” [Luke 9: 40, 41, 42].

Poor Martha! She really takes it on the chin for being so caught up in mundane tasks. Did Jesus expect her to leave her kitchen duties and join Mary at his feet? Maybe not. How then would  their many guests get fed?  Can’t we go about our ordinary tasks and still maintain a loving relationship with Jesus Christ? Continue reading

To Reconcile or Exclude, A Dilemma.

All nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. [Matthew 25: 32]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   “…the mystery of Christ is this: to unite all things in him in heaven and earth.”(Ephesians 1, 9, 10)

Recently I spoke with a friend about God’s mystery, i.e. his ultimate plan to unite all things in Christ. He countered with the sheep and goats parable, implying God’s plan is to divide rather than unite.  He has a point. How do we reconcile this parable that excludes people with His intention to unite all things?   Continue reading