Is it me, or has the world really been cranking up the volume lately? You can’t turn on the radio or television without hearing about massacres in Syria, tensions in Iran, protests in Afghanistan, rising gas prices in the U.S. (and everywhere else!) and over it all is the fact that this is a presidential election year, so pundits and politicians try to make themselves heard over the cacophony of it all. Domestic and social issues are banging the drum too. The health care debate has turned into an argument over abortion. Several states are seeking approval or have already approved of homosexual marriage. Somebody get me an Advil because it’s giving me a headache.
In addition to all this is the fact that many Christians are confused with how to respond. As I look among the ranks of Christendom, there is no consensus about what the Church’s response should be. I have read and heard everything ranging from those who would have us bury our head in the sand by living in communes as if nothing at all is happening to those who want the church to be loud, vocal and even practice forms of civil disobedience in order to get the politicians in Washington to listen. What happens then is the “church” adds to the noise as we argue with each other over what course of action is right. In the din and clamor of it all it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused.
Let’s rewind a couple of thousand years to the culture in which the Church was born. What we find is a world not unlike our own. Jerusalem politics were just as inflammatory, if not more so, than ours. You had the Zealots who wished to kick Rome out by any means necessary, including assassinations and riotous behavior. You had the Herodians, who wanted to maintain the status quo because Rome kept both their bellies and purses fat. You had the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were so busy debating each other that the common man, who was already ignored by the government, now found himself ignored by the religious establishment itself. If we were to zoom out we would see a world government (Rome) more corrupt and decadent than our own. A government that endorsed slavery, oppressed women and children and turned a blind eye to sexual deviancy of every kind. A government whose idea of freedom of religion was pluralism, a philosophy that teaches all religions/gods are equally valid/invalid. A government whose method of peacekeeping included destroying cities, enslaving citizens and crucifying insurrectionists. In short the world into which Christianity was born was a world full of noise; it was a world not unlike our own.
So how did the Church respond? Did she bury her head in the sand? No. The pages of the book of Acts are filled with the Church engaging the world by meeting needs and putting the Gospel into action. The Bible account is also littered with the bodies of the earliest ‘witnesses’ or ‘martyrs’ of the faith. Did the Church lead a full frontal assault on the established government? No. What we find is a Church with an extraordinary focus on one thing and one thing only: Make disciples of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 served as a silencer to all the noise. When Paul, a man totally sold out to fulfilling Christ’s final command, went about His work he was determined to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Cor. 2). His determination paid off. Read through Acts and Paul’s letters. Paul ends up preaching the Gospel to government leaders on every level. From local magistrates, to governors to the very household of Caesar the message of salvation from sin rang out clear and strong, drowning all other noise.
So, in light of this, what should our response be to the current ‘noise’ in the world? The Church should do what the Church does best: preach the life changing message of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We should ring that bell at all times, no matter the opposition, no matter the cost to us personally. Our clarion call should be a call to come to the cross. Our proclamation should be as profound as the empty tomb. Our hands should be so busy carrying the message of Christ they have no time to carry placards. Our feet should be so swift with the Gospel of Christ they have no time for demonstrative marches. Our lips should be filled with the message of the cross, not the message of the latest cause. There will be opportunities to present the Gospel to those in power. We must take advantages of those opportunities, just as Paul did, to call even the highest official to bow in submission to King Jesus. And when the world tries to mute us; when they sharpen their axes to chop down our pulpits; when we find brothers and sisters in Christ imprisoned for their witness, it is then that we must remember the very words of our Savior, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
I can already hear some of you making noise. “What about abortion?” It will die out when enough lives are changed by the Holy Spirit. “What about Gay Marriage?” Government endorsement does not equal Church endorsement. Besides, our job is to make disciples, not legislate morality. “What about the election?” Exercise your rights as Americans and vote your values as Christians. At the same time, pray for God to raise up modern day versions of Paul that can share the Gospel in a real way with our current government leaders. Pray also that God raises up individual Christians who feel lead to run for office to effect change for the furthering of the Gospel. “What about Syria/Iran/Afghanistan?” Pray that the hardships there lead to opportunities for the Gospel to be preached. “What about gas prices and the economy?” Consider the lilies of the field and the sparrows in the sky. God provides for them. He will provide for you also, so that you may be able to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Some may say my approach is overly simplistic. Others will say that I am doing the philosophical equivalent of burying my head in the sand by refusing to tackle these issues head on. To these critics I would say we cannot fight worldly battles with worldly tactics. To do so is to play their games by their rules, which always results in the Church losing. The battle belongs to the Lord, and so does the battle plan, which is a simple one: “Go into all the world and make disciples.”