While this series has taken me longer to write than I first thought, this topic has come at just the right time. With all the hype going on with the gay-marriage voting in North Carolina, and President Obama’s statement soon after, I find that this post could not have better timing. At the end of part one in this series, I said that I would address the church and its social agenda in the fifth part, so here it is.
In this post I hope to answer several questions as well as address several different groups of people.
1. Should the church voice its stand on popular and controversial social issues that face our society today?
2. Should the church’s view on social issues change over time as the culture changes?
3. How should the church go about voicing its thoughts on social issues that our society faces?
In answering the first question, I will need to explain several conclusions. First, the church is to be the “pillar of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) to our world. Understanding this, we as followers of the One true God, must stand firm in His truth. Thus, when it comes to popular and controversial social issues, it is important that the church share what God says concerning these things. Not opinions or preferences, but what the Eternal God has said.
Now, I want to address both Christians and non-Christians. Fellow follower of Jesus, we must be clear about what God’s word says about issues we face today, and we must stand with Him as He speaks. In doing so, we are faced with a couple of challenges. We will feel pressure to not speak on certain issues so not to disrupt the status quo. Now, Scripture says there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent, but more often than not, we are tempted to remain silent when it is clear that we should speak. We are also tempted to adjust our view on certain issues, not because God desires us to, but simply because we do not care to face potential persecution for standing boldly in God’s word. This is cowardly, wimpy, and dishonors the Lord you worship. Faith in Jesus often results in persecution (Matthew 5: 10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12).
For those who are not followers of Jesus I want to explain the reasoning for the paragraph above. First, if the church is faithful to the Lord, then when we stand on particular issues, we share not our own opinion, rather God’s thoughts about the subject. Also, even in your unbelief in the Lord Jesus, you should expect those who do believe to stand with Him. You may not like our position, but it should not shock you that we voice our stance. Actually, what should shock you more would be if the church voiced no opinion and remained silent. Now, you may not like how we voice it, and in that you may have a valid point. I will get to that in answering question #3 above.
As far as the second question, should the church’s stance on issues change over time as the culture changes, we really need to understand the nature of God. He does not change (Psalm 102:27;Malachi 3:6). Since God is truth, and He does not change, truth does not change. So, as culture changes, if the church alters its stance on issues that are clearly explained in Scripture, they move away from the God who they worship, and cease to be the “pillar of truth”. The church’s role is to call the culture to change and embrace the living God, who created them. So, as the church keeps God as its number one affection and object of worship, it remains firm in its stance on things that He remains firm on, simply because the church recognizes and embraces the fact that God has complete authority over all things, and all things are subject to Him, whether they love Him for it or not. So, the church, in its love for the Lord, should stand firm against gay-marriage (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10) against abortion (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5), against abuse of women and children (James 1:26-27), against neglecting the poor (Proverbs 17:5), and other important social issues of today. Why? Because the Creator of all things has revealed His will to us through His word, and He desires His people to love what He loves, and not seek to change what He has said. These kinds of things are not about equality. It is about what is right and what is wrong as deemed by the Lord.
Now, answering the last question is a very important one for me: how is the church to go about voicing God’s thoughts on current social issues? I think this question needs to be answered by answering at least two other questions. First, what is the mission of the church? Second, without the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, where would we be as a church?
The mission of the church is very simple and very clear. We are called to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20;Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). But, without the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, we would be lost in our sin, separated from His love, and living without hope in this world. So, in essence, we are trying to help people see their need for Jesus, like what happened to us in the past, so that they can be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). The gospel according to Jesus means that those in the church are no better than those outside except for the fact that they have received the grace of God by faith. He, not due to our goodness or holiness, but even when we were dead in our trespasses and sin and His enemy, saved us by His Son by His grace. This is very important for us in the church to never forget how we came into the church: by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This should help us when we voice our thoughts and take our stand when it comes to social issues. Our goal in standing with God in His word is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Him, not simply change society with legislation. Even if the whole world embraced God’s view of marriage, but rejected Jesus as their Saviour, then it would not be any better off. Morality is not the goal. Jesus as Lord is. So, in our efforts to stand in truth, we are to present the good news of Jesus. This is why I believe that picketing abortion clinics and protesting at gay parades is not the best way to accomplish our mission. These kinds of things probably hurt much more than help, and are often done in hate for a group of people. Our goal should be to stand against sin while at the same time offering to people the truth and good news of Jesus that has so much changed our lives and given us eternal hope. A stand without this goal, misses the point. Remember, “we are ambassadors for Christ.” We have been given “the ministry of reconciliation”. We are to let “God make His appeal through us” so that others may believe in His name and be saved (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Hate protest signs simply do not accomplish this. So why do so many “Christians” revert to this kind of stand? Not sure, but maybe because it is so much easier to make a protest sign and attend an event than it is to love, pray for, and bless other people so that they can know Jesus. We should be thankful that the Lord Jesus laid down His life for us. Because of this, we ought to lay down our lives for others.
So, what do I conclude? When it comes to social issues, the goal is not necessarily the issues themselves, rather the proclamation of Jesus to the world. The church must stand firm according to what God says, not culture. While culture is constantly changing, God never does. We should not let culture determine truth, nor keep us from sharing it. But, while doing this, we are to do so in ways that glorify God and point people to Him. While I am not a fan of picketing and protesting, I am in favor of voting. I applaud North Carolina in its stance for traditional marriage. If you are a non-Christian, like I said above, you should expect us to vote this way, talk this way, and stand this way. But, I stand in humility, because I am a sinner just like you. The only difference is that I have received God’s gift of salvation by faith. I do not promote to you a social agenda or political party. I simply point you to the one who matters and can bring you great joy: the Lord Jesus Christ.