The alignment of Christians with political conservatism is a recent phenomenon rarely questioned these days. Conservatism, it seems, simply is understood as the biblical position, but the results have been mixed at best, from a cultural standpoint. In fact, it can be predicted with confidence that gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states in our lifetime. How can this be, when Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?
I propose that it’s time for a cease-fire in the culture war and a closer examination of the church’s calling in a sinful world. Here’s the reason: the culture war has been a disaster for the church and the cause of Christ.
In Deuteronomy 1:42, God told the Israelites, “Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you,” but the Israelites did not listen and they were defeated. The Israelites were on a mission God had not commanded, and I believe that is the case today. It is just as sinful now as it was then.
This has happened because Christians have been preaching morality instead of Jesus. We can blame Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Francis Schaeffer, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, et al., for this shift in the mission of the church, but ultimately it’s our fault. As shepherds of God’s flock, our responsibility is to protect it from wolves and false teachers, and we have been deceived.
Bringing Glory to God
Jesus never gave his disciples marching orders to “preach morality,” and he never did so himself. In fact, in Acts 15, the apostles said that law keeping was a burden that neither they nor their fathers had been able to bear. So why do we campaign for sin to be illegal for nonbelievers? Will it save anyone? Will it bring glory to God?
Notice that Paul never preached morality, nor did he attack the sinful practices of nonbelievers. Does he attack idolatry in his Mars Hill sermon (see Acts 17:22ff)? He was troubled in his spirit because of it, but he was respectful in his address, and he kept the focus on Jesus. In his ministry at Ephesus, no one could say Paul had spoken against the goddess Diana. If Paul had done so, the outcome of that riot would have been far different (Acts 19:37). Paul told the Corinthians he was determined to “know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In fact, the only times Paul brings up morality is in regard to the practices of the church. He contrasts past sinful practices with what they had become: a new creation (Ephesians 2:1-3). In Romans 1:28, Paul wrote this of certain nonbelievers: “God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”
First Peter is the model for the persecuted church today, and a careful reading of that letter reveals the character and conduct of a church that would be above reproach in the world. Christians keep their behavior excellent among the Gentiles (nonbelievers) because it will cause them to glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11, 12). Has the culture war caused nonbelievers to glorify God?
At Christmastime a few years ago I received an e-mail urging Christians to flood the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union with Christmas cards. The hope was it would paralyze the ACLU’s mailroom and overwhelm its staff.
But what would be the point? Would ACLU workers and officials glorify God because of it? “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8, 9).
Finally, we are compelled by the example of Jesus himself: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). No so-called sinner was ever afraid of Jesus; the Lord’s enemies were the religious elite. Sinners, in fact, flocked to Jesus.
A Mennonite school opened not far from my home in northeastern Pennsylvania, and a business customer of mine asked me about them. He clearly was afraid. He lives with his boyfriend in a nearby town, and he felt personally threatened by this group he knew nothing about, simply because it was a church. Is that what we want, for the world to fear us? Is that what Jesus wants?
Meddling Is Not Our Mission
Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), so why would we want to take him by force and make him king? We have only one divine mission and purpose, and it’s not to preserve the nuclear family, outlaw abortion, prevent gay marriage, permit prayer in school, or any other social cause you care to name. It is to go into all the world and preach the good news (Matthew 28:19, 20), period. All these other things are meddling.
Peter said, “If you suffer, it should not be as a . . . meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). What is a meddler? Is it not someone who interferes in something that is none of his business? The world is telling us that personal morality among nonbelievers is none of our business, and a backlash has begun against the church. Every legislative victory has resulted in more aggressive tactics by the opposition. People have left the church, and our own youth are reluctant to share their faith because of the politicization of the gospel. Countless books and TV hours have pilloried the tactics and message of the church, which looks hateful because we have strayed from the gospel. The name and cause of Jesus have been brought low because of it.
This has happened because we have been deceived and seduced by a seemingly good cause, espoused by seemingly good men. Deceit is a hallmark of the end times, according to Scripture, and Satan targets even the elect. Evil men and imposters come from inside the church (2 Timothy 3:13), and Scripture says there will even be an imposter in God’s temple “proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The temple in Scripture is sometimes our bodies, sometimes the church, sometimes Heaven itself. The most likely temple referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the church, and verse 9 says the coming of the “lawless one” will be in accord with the activity of Satan, which includes deception and wickedness.
If that is true, then we have been following an imposter. If neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded the culture war, and I don’t believe they did, then the source of it is evil. You can be deceived by an imposter only if you don’t know the original well enough to spot the fake, and that is an indictment of our Bible knowledge.
I have been as guilty of this as anyone, and we all need to repent. We have allowed Satan’s orders to compete with and short-circuit the Great Commission. Christians have allowed him to reshape the church of Jesus into a conservative political action committee, and taken positions on every conservative issue, and these have become the message the world hears. Incalculable damage has been done.
Jesus does not want us to “take America back” for him, he wants us to take his church back for him. We can and we must, if the world is to believe.
Kelly Boyd is a legal photographer and videographer with Legal-Eze Video Services in Ashland, Pennsylvania.