Responding to Our Times

As followers of Jesus

How should we respond to our times?

Many believers think the future looks bleak and are concerned that the polls indicate a swing away from traditional values.  Some of them have an “all is lost attitude,” and it’s easy for them to be gloomy and pessimistic about the future.  We should remind ourselves that our hope isn’t in a democratic government or laws that reflect our convictions, it’s in Jesus.  In spite of much more difficult conditions, believers in other countries understand this, and many seem to have an inner peace and joy that would make most American believers envious.

It’s true that many of the concerns that touch us deeply are probably going to move inexorably in the opposite direction of our choice.  Issues like homosexuality and abortion will more than likely proceed unabated toward more tolerance and even wide-scale acceptability.  Social and moral concerns that are so vital to evangelicals may increasingly be seen as weird and narrow-minded.  We are probably in for less and less acceptance and possibly even a bit of open hostility from some quadrants.

Unfortunately, some of the rejection may be warranted because of our past attitudes and methods.  We haven’t always been Christ-like in our responses to the culture in which we find ourselves.  I strongly believe that many evangelicals have made some crucial errors and those errors may haunt all of us for years to come.  In the last few elections, we have thought that our Biblically based convictions would be accepted by a pluralistic and secular society.  We should probably stop expecting our present culture to be something it is not.

It is true that the men who founded our nation were largely God-fearing and many were real disciples of Jesus.  In those days, they were in the majority, and so we have the rich heritage of having been founded as a Judeo-Christian nation.  That is no longer true, and it seems unlikely that we can return things to the way they were by political means.  In light of the facts that face us, it is probably past time to re-evaluate our goals and our role as believers in American society.

Many are saying that God will judge America for its lack of morality.  That may be so, but we are reminded of 1 Peter 4:17, which says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God.”  We have tended to expect change to come through political efforts when, in reality, God’s way is found in 2nd Chronicles 7:14.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I am in no way suggesting a “do nothing” attitude.  In fact, I am wholeheartedly in favor of believers getting involved in politics as well as making their wishes known by voting their conscience.  In addition, we should stand against all forms of immorality and injustice even if it costs us dearly.  We are supposed to be salt and light in our culture, and it would degenerate very quickly if the influence of the Holy Spirit through believers were withdrawn.  However, it is another matter altogether to expect the ballot box to change hearts.  We have laws against crime, drugs, racism, etc., and I’m glad we do, but, these laws haven’t stopped those involved from devastating our nation, and they aren’t likely to do so anytime soon.  What I am suggesting is that the answers for America’s dilemma are spiritual, not political.  Do whatever God asks you to do but don’t be disillusioned if things don’t turn out the way you think they should.  As Mother Teresa put it, “we are not called to be successful, just faithful.”

When I was meeting with a Supreme Court justice from Columbia, we discussed the drug problem in both of our countries.  After many years of trying to solve the problem this secular man suggested that the only answer he could think of was, “if we could somehow change people’s hearts.”  On another occasion, I was in Jerusalem discussing the Israeli-Palestinian situation with the Secretary General of the Knesset.  He was a non-religious Jew but volunteered that the only hope was, “if we could find a way to change people’s hearts.”

A recent re-reading of the Jewish historian, Josephus, reminded me of the kind of world in which Jesus lived.  Let’s review the conditions during His time on earth: The combined Roman and Temple Tax was 70 percent.  Slavery was an accepted norm.  Women had few rights and children had none.  Individual human rights were non-existent, and life was cheap.  It was an extremely violent and corrupt time, and the reigning Caesar (i.e., President) was bi-sexual.  Into that world, Jesus brought a message of hope, and I believe His message would be unchanged if He came today.  Therefore, we have hope.

Even if the majority rejects our ideas about social and moral issues, they should still feel the redeeming love of Jesus being expressed by those who call themselves His followers.  I am afraid they often get our wrath, but, while Jesus lived in a less than godly culture, He reserved His condemnation for those in the religious community.  Our challenges are not as difficult as those faced by the early believers, but if they were, the answer would still be Jesus.  Let’s respond wisely to our times and accept the years ahead as an opportunity to express the hope we have in Jesus to our hurting world.  Let’s remind ourselves that our hope isn’t in a democratic government or laws that reflect our values, it’s in Jesus.

Now more than ever let’s remember 1 Timothy 2:1-3: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior.”  Notice that it doesn’t say; pray for those in authority only if your man was elected.

Jesus Christ is still the only person who can change a heart or a nation.

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