Christians, churches and culture

Today is the March For Life in Washington, D.C. For 49 years Americans have been killing the unborn out of convenience. It’s no surprise our culture is a mess of contradictions and conflict. Is American culture by and large sick? Yes. Why? Perhaps because it has been growing in the blood of 60+ million abortions.

What do we do? It depends on who’s asking.

If “we” is a man or woman committed to following Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teaching that the strong must advocate for and even fight for the helpless, then vote, blog, podcast, canvas neighborhoods, run for office, call your political leaders, share the gospel, create school clubs or non-profit organizations, hold conferences, write books and pray–all for the purpose of seeing abortion end.

We happen to live in a culture (mostly) governed by the Constitution that makes all of this possible and even desirable. I’m often surprised that Christians somehow don’t believe we have power enough to effect cultural change. How did the culture get the way it is? Men and women of all political inclinations and religious persuasions have done all the things I listed above. There is no special power to change culture: it is done by the consistent use of the opportunities and freedoms we have at our finger tips.

If “we” is a local church then preach the full counsel of God’s word, eat the Lord’s Supper, pray together (all from Acts 2:42) and plead for the Lord to return and roll up the evil world like a scroll (2 Peter 3:10) delivering the New Jerusalem.

You’ll notice the scope of activity is very different than the first? The business of the church is to grow a different kingdom in a different manner. The Bible tells us the power of the Holy Spirit is not for the sake of building worldly institutions: family, school, government or culture. It is for the building up of the church, the Temple, the House of Living Stones whose Cornerstone is Christ.

Why is it that there are some in Christendom who believe there aren’t two “we’s” here? That the work of the church and the work of the Christian aren’t distinguishable? Would they have the State ordain Ministers? Then why would they have the Ministers give orders to the State? “State Church” experiments in human history have rarely produced faithful churches–they still don’t. Have “Church State” experiments fared any better?

There simply is no benefit in conflating the work of a Christian in the culture with the work of the Church in the culture. There is no greater power for the Christian if this was so; indeed, there is only the danger of the culture contaminating the church (the mainline churches who have abandoned Apostles’ Creed Christianity for some social variant is proof of this).

It is also not true that if the Church were to build its house in the ways mentioned above and stay out of political or cultural advocacy that becomes a version of isolationism. Culture changes from the inside-out, not the outside-in (education is far more effective and long lasting than litigation / legislation). Faithful churches make cultural change each Lord’s Day as the word and sacraments tinker with the souls of the redeemed to give them courage and Christlikeness. As a result, individual believers are subjectively motivated to glorify God in all we do and objectively equipped by the truth of God’s word.

Our culture doesn’t need the church telling it how to behave–that’s not the church’s role. It needs individual Christians motivated and active in making change to unjust institutions working with men and women of all stripes.

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