Where does the church belong in these trying times?
We are drifting as a Christians. The world around is in tumult and there are string influences tell us that we need to side with either the social unrest in the streets, or the law and order rhetoric of our politics. But if I were handed a blank piece of paper and told to draw where I believe the church belonged I’d draw a line right down the middle of the sheet.
We cannot join with the lawlessness gripping our streets and destroying lives and property in what is increasingly being identified as a movement against just police authority, but all authority. The push to cast of existing authority is being driven by a desire to entrench a new authority made in the image of those advocating for change. The advocacy is a good indication of the kind of authority they would replace the status quo with. Since God is a God of order and peace, those who are indwelt by His Spirit cannot give themselves.
On the other side of the issue are those who rally under the banner of “law and order”. It’s clear that this approach will not solve or end the current cultural moment we find ourselves in. Consider, that in 1970 only 1 in 400 Americans were incarcerated. That number has jumped to 1 in 100 over the last 40 years and increased both awareness of inequalities in our justice system and increased calls for justice reform. The law and order banner looks at mercy and grace as signs of weakness and so tough on crime initiatives are passed and infractions that were misdemeanors a generation ago are now charged as felonies.
Lawlessness and gracelessness…there has to be a better option for the church to align itself with. It just so happens there is. Christians advocate for societal change through personal transformation. The object of our evangelism is the unbeliever who may encompasse the ardent antifa member to the alt-right idealogue. We believe that society and culture is a reflection of the human condition not a creator of it. Therefore if we want to change the culture we need to change the hearts of the people who make up that culture. We do that through the means of the Gospel and compelling witness.
If I had a sheet of paper, I’d draw a line right down the middle of it and say that’s where the church belongs, that’s where the church will be most effective. The church should stand between the waring factions of our fractured society and point everyone to the way of Jesus Christ.
After all, we know we the world can be changed through coercive fear. We also know the world can be changed by legislative fiat. Despite the changes wrought through outside forces, we find that people remain the same, their hearts are unchanged and it is inevitable the new realities will become as corrupted as the old realities they replaced.
If we really want to see genuine lasting social change, we must go after individual people. We must be in the world but not of it. And the way we retain our distinctive identity, is to fully identify with Jesus, His message, and His methods. Because in 2020, if Jesus were to walk our streets, he’d walk right down the middle too.
Christians recognize that institutional change can happen through the coercive power of fear. Oddly both camps are philosophically rooted in the same soil. Fear motives action, fear of authority leads to rejection of authority and rioting in the street. Fear of anarchy and lawlessness drives gun sales, the preper-culture, and political activity. Fear fear fear. Christians are called to fear not.