For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is It Time For Christians To Withdraw?

Cal Thomas wrote a column last week in which he suggests that the “religious right” get out of the politics business and back into the “church” business. No, he hasn’t traded sides. He’s just suggesting that we’ll never be able to change the culture through government, so let’s get back to the business of changing lives through the Gospel. To some extent, I agree.

I never thought I would say this, having the respect I do for Mr. Thomas, but I think he’s missing the point. He has set up a false “either-or” path for the church in America. It’s not about faithfully proclaiming and living the Gospel message OR working within the political structure to make a stand for morality. In the unique structure of the American experiment it can and should be both.

He is right in saying that our hope is not in government. It never has been, it never will be. Only Christ can change lives and change behavior as a result. Our goals should be Kingdom goals, and that is where our efforts should be focused. Once people have transformed lives in Christ, their faithful Christian lives will have an impact on the world around them.

However, part of the faithful Christian life is to be a good citizen of the state (Romans 13). In this great land, being a good citizen means being involved in the political process. Not to the neglect of our Gospel mandate; but as part of it.

1 Peter 2:17 tells us, among other things, to “Fear God and Honor the King.” Honoring the king in a monarchy means one thing. Honoring the king in the US of A means something different. The President is not the king. In fact, the battle cry of the American Revolution was “No King but King Jesus” (Not that many remember or believe that anymore).

In our government established of the people, by the people and for the people, the “people” are “king.” To honor the king then simply means to be a good citizen of the republic in which we live, which means being an informed and involved voter and participant in the process.

I agree that too many have put too much hope in that process. We have put more money and time and effort into the political battles than we have into the spiritual battle. But the answer is not to withdraw.

While we may not be able to “legislate morality” in the sense of truly changing a person’s mind, attitude and behavior by legislation; we do still have a responsibility to be involved in seeing gross sin (i.e. abortion, homosexual “marriage”, etc.) legislated out of our midst. Why? Because we are accountable.

Just one example. Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

If we stand by and watch our society decline into the abyss of sin while we had the opportunity to do something about it, both through Gospel preaching AND political involvement, then we will be held accountable before our Righteous Judge. Go back and read how many times the people of Israel were sentenced to judgment because they allowed injustice and immorality to occur. And how much more opportunity do we have as American citizens to influence our government and laws than did those Jewish folks?

So, Mr. Thomas is right. The way to truly change the culture is to see people changed one heart at a time through the power of the gospel. And we should devote ourselves to that end. Yet, at the same time, once those hearts are changed, they will understand that to live a godly life in this nation means to be a part of the process, to do what we can with our amazing rights and freedoms (a blessing from God) to see that that our children and their children will inherit a nation worth having.

To paraphrase Mr. Thomas’ column title: Rest in Christ’s peace and follow Him in humility; but don’t fail to do what’s right.


Frances Clements said...

Excellent post.

Frances Clements said...

My friend wrote a letter about Mr. Thomas' column. Her letter was published in the Star Telegram (Fort Worth's main paper). I got permission to re-print it. I would love to here your comments on it.