Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Turning History Around

Western Civilization is continuing to drift further away from historic Christianity. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this? The conversion of western Civilization to Christianity was very much of a foxhole conversion. The Roman Empire was falling apart, and it needed something to hold it together. Later, when the Empire fell, Christianity continued to be the glue that helped stabilize society. But when society came back together again, it began the process of slowly throwing aside Christianity for a more secular outlook. This is not surprising, as there is a natural tendency in human beings to feel they can manage things without the need of God. Also, it did not help that Christianity had become compromised by conformity to the world. Therefore, in spite of many attempts to turn it around, our culture continues to move away from historic Christian beliefs.

The solution is not some quick fix of passing the right laws or electing the right officials. Nor does it help if we develop a sense of entitlement and become angry because society no longer gives us the respect we feel we have a right to. Rather, we need to remember that it is not surprising if the world is opposed to Christianity (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:24-26). But we are called to respond, not in violence, but with a firm gentleness (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:5,6). There is a place for us to make our case, but we need to make our case, not just cram it down someone's throat.

 But I also do not believe that we can solve the problem simply by trying to fit in with the culture. Now there is a place for meeting people where they are and explaining things in a language they can understand (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 19:10). But the cross is a stumbling block, and we should not expect people to embrace it without struggle (1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 10:2-4). I am convinced that the reason the Roman Empire embraced Christianity was that it was different. It had something the Empire needed, but did not have.

To avoid these extremes we need to understand that God is at work in His church to accomplish His purposes in the world (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7). Therefore, we can trust in Him, not our own plans (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Hebrews 11:6). We need to avoid the magic formulas and to start again at the beginning as Christians in a secularized society, and to build from there. While there is a place for standing up for justice, we need to realize that, barring a clear miracle from God, what we are facing is the long haul of convincing people to accept Christian principles.  And this means being different enough to be helpful, without being simply hostile.

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