“If we don’t start bringing our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, and even those who don’t like us to a knowledge of Christ, we can only patch up the problem so many times before the inevitable happens, just as it did in Rome, Greece, Babylon, Egypt, and everywhere else.” – Me, in a previous article
Quotes like that are rather common in the Christian world today as we watch our nation continue to turn its back on God and embrace greater and greater immorality with each passing day. Books have been written, sermons have been preached, and articles have been shared detailing the problems, predicting the consequences, and attempting to recommend a plan of action. We all recognize that if we don’t do something, it’s only a matter of time before those consequences come to pass.
The question we rarely ask ourselves, though, is why do we discuss this? Why do we want America to repent? I hadn’t put much thought into why I wrote things like the quote above until a few days ago, when a paragraph from C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves caught my eye and has been on my mind ever since.
“Religions devised for a social purpose, like Roman emperor-worship or modern attempts to ‘sell’ Christianity as a means of ‘saving civilisation,’ do not come to much. The little knots of Friends who turn their backs on the ‘World’ are those who really transform it.”
Those modern attempts to sell Christianity to save civilization are exactly what we fall into the trap of advocating. That’s why we have to question our motives. Why are we really pushing for repentance in America?
Our apprehension of Islam’s spread, anxiety for our nation’s future, and fear of persecution give us that answer. We talk about how persecution is coming if things don’t change, and while that’s probably true, that’s nothing that ever seemed to affect the decisions of the New Testament Christians. They preached the Gospel whether they would be persecuted or not, whether it made any difference in how they were going to be treated in the world (Philippians 1:21). That fact is all you need to know when you wonder why they were so much more effective than we are. Compare and contrast the church you see throughout Acts with the church of today, keeping that phrase in mind – “The little knots of Friends who turn their backs on the ‘World’ are those who really transform it.”
Our words are often spent in attempts to convince people that they need to repent or “things are going to get really bad here,” when instead our message should always be that all men everywhere must repent or they will be eternally separated from their God (Acts 17:30-31). We look at ourselves as defenders of some righteous way of life that must be protected and fought for at all costs. They looked at themselves as the hands and feet by which God’s Word would be taken to the entire world. We are perfectly comfortable with thinking that America was won for Christ because His name was mentioned often in the beginning of our country, and it’s our job to merely defend that territory. They would have realized that anyone and everyone who hasn’t come to a true knowledge of God still needs to come to repentance, and that it’s not good enough to cling to the past. We fight to force corporations to uphold Christian values, regardless of whether the people behind them are Christians. They knew that hearts and souls were what mattered, not shallow, outward victories.
All of this explains why it’s so difficult to get many Christians out of their comfort zones and engaged in the battle. If it’s about saving the American way of life, we’ll never be able to reach some until the threats become real (see church attendance post-9/11 and during the Cold War). If it’s about something more, something bigger that isn’t focused so narrowly on success in this world, that’s where we’ll start to make a difference. When we examine the mission Jesus left behind for His disciples (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 1:8) it had nothing to do with moralizing the message of the Gospel to ensure national protection from God’s wrath. Sure, that was the case for Israel in the Old Testament, but our call is greater now. With the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the point isn’t to save our nation from gay marriage and the influences of Islam. It’s glorifying Christ and making His name known in every place.
Every church, every preacher, and every writer is looking for that key to building a community of believers, of finding authenticity, and all those other buzz words for making a difference. I believe Lewis, in channeling Christ’s call to take up our mission in fellowship with those around us and disregard the world’s purposes, hit the nail on the head. To quote him once again, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Let’s stop worrying about winning America back, returning to the 50s or some other whitewashed time in our history and start focusing on heaven, learning how we can help each other get there and how we can show the path to Christ to as many others as possible.
By Jack Wilkie

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