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.
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