I don't want to make you a Christian
August 4, 2002
The current quarter of my Sunday school has focused on the Bible book of Romans. It is a fascinating study. You will find technical doctrinal portions, practical applications and great inspiration.
In a few moments I am leaving to go teach my lesson on Romans 13. Those of you familiar with the passage will recognize it as one of the more succinct descriptions of the Christian's role in relation to government. This has caused me to pause to consider my own philosophy of government and how Christians should participate in the process.
This has been weighing on my mind. First there was my lesson, then there was the Ben Graydon article in Wednesday’s Times Examiner and finally there was a dinner I attended on Friday night where the Christian’s role in government was one of the primary topics of conversation. The thoughts all have to come out somewhere—this piece is at least the beginning.
Here is a list of some random thoughts on the topic. It is not exhaustive. The late Terry Haskins wrote his entire masters thesis on the topic!
As a Christian, I am caught in an interesting conflict. I realize that creating a "moral" society can actually hinder the Gospel. Any man-made laws can set a standard to which many people can hold. This keeping of such a standard leads to self-righteousness. It isn't until a person realizes their own immorality compared to God's righteousness that they can see the need for Jesus Christ. "Hey, look, I'm okay. I am a moral person. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't chew or go with folks that do." That doesn't matter. If you are trusting in your own created standards, you aren't impressing God.
- Government can never be effectively used to accomplish the purposes of the family and the church.
- Government can be engaged to help create an environment that will allow the family and the church to be free to fulfill their purposes.
- It is not the place of the church to organize for political purposes.
- It is the responsibility of the individual believer to be involved as a good citizen.
The conflict comes in the fact that there is a common grace. By that I mean even an unbeliever who follows the teachings of the Bible can have a temporal blessing. When I look at society I realize that there are positive things to be gained when the community as a whole follows standards expressed in the Bible.
Where I believe the church has gone wrong is that we have put too much emphasis on this “common grace” approach and not enough on the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. We have sought to use law to make everyone look like Christians. The only way we can effectively change our culture is to change it from the inside out. Beauty can be only skin deep.
Ralph Bristol wrote in a recent column “Using government to impose uniform moral standards is a lazy, ineffective way to proselytize.” Actually, it is impossible. No amount of external pressure can make a believer. The keeping of any system of law or standards as a means of gaining favor with God is useless.
Still, this is where the conflict arises. So then, does the Christian refuse involvement in the political process and watch the culture self-destruct knowing all along that he has the answers to help? Stay tuned. . .