Church Silence on Critical Moral Issues is Aiding Sin and Perverting the Gospel
I have long been an interested party in how the Gospel propels us into social involvement. The idea that as Christians we can stick our head in the sand and pretend everything is okay in our society seems both unbiblical and counter-intuitive to what Scripture teaches. That we should be active in helping “the least of these” and doing everything in our power to champion them seems obvious given the Bible’s teaching (see the book of James).
What I have come to realize is that many churches, pastors, and Christians are the least active, least involved (seemingly the least concerned) about matters that have come to be known as “social justice” issues. Whether this is due to such issues becoming highly politicized, or whether it is a result of poor theology is unclear. What is clear is that far too many Christians have little concern for anything that faintly smells political.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting we all quit our jobs and run for political office. That calling must be clear as the person called to run for office will need every ounce of grace and strength God will grant. But as Christians we cannot sit on the sidelines and bemoan the state of our culture and society (politically or morally) while we do absolutely nothing. No one like a backseat driver or am armchair quarterback.
So while a few churches have taken any interest in the world outside their Bible-insulated walls, most have stayed content to meet each week to condemn society, gossip about sinful neighbors, and remain idle. This is lamentable at best. And I wish more churches would connect the Gospel to local and global action that reaches beyond week long mission trips. In fact, I firmly believe that if most churches became involved in “campaigning” for change in their communities we would see our society changed into something more in line with our theology.
But, to be honest, I am not optimistic or hopeful that this will happen.
On this point I find myself in disagreement with Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Counsel. A few months ago Dr. Moore wrote about his thoughts on the political engagement of the church. He said that he thinks the church will have to get more involved in order to prevent the state from further restricting our freedoms. Dr. Moore said that any pullback on the part of Christians from the public sector “will be impossible” because it would result in constricting “the liberty of future generations.”
While I agree that Christians need to get more involved, I don’t believe they will. At this point if Christians continue to sit on the sidelines, or, worse still, pull away from any involvement in matters of public interest; we will no doubt be jeopardizing the future freedoms of our children and grandchildren. So while I want nothing more than to see the church become more active in public matters – for the sake of the Gospel – I simply don’t believe this will happen.
Many young pastors that I’ve come across don’t see a need to be involved. Public demonstrations in support of the unborn, rallies in support of traditional marriage, and local town hall meetings discussing school bills or local ordinances don’t interest young Christians. They want to “focus on the Gospel” and none of these things are seen as essential to the Gospel message so they are pushed aside. But this is where I believe a mistake in theology has occurred.
How can someone claim to be a Christian while supporting the murder of the unborn?
How can someone claim the name of Jesus while rejecting the biblical picture of the family and marriage?
How can we call ourselves Christians while turning a blind eye to the suffering of others in our neighborhood, our country, and our world?
Somewhere the emphasis on “the Gospel” has been disconnected from the “good works” the Bible clearly tells us we are responsible for (again, read the book of James). Many have successfully divorced Jesus from his refusal to condemn or ignore sin and have subsequently adopted a humanistic Gospel that perverts grace and changes no one. By doing so we have easily ignored the suffering around us and avoided any involvement in social matters while claiming to be serving Christ.
What we’ve created is a church where “everyone is welcome;” even the sinner that refuses to repent of his sin and wants to “feel good” each week in church while living in his sin. And just to make sure everyone feels welcome and we don’t offend anyone, we don’t discuss, preach, or teach on topics that are considered “controversial” to our society. No sermons on the sanctity of life, let’s not discuss co-habitation, idolatry, money, or anything that has been discussed at a political debate.
The justification for shallow sermons is that “if we can help people meet Jesus, He will change them.” I like that thought. I think there is much to agree with there. However, we are also living in a society that says you can be a Christian and support abortion, homosexuality, marriage redefinition, indebtedness, poor stewardship, and many other moral sins the Bible condemns. So our silence on these critical issues is being met with unbiblical talking points from every media outlet in our culture. Do the math, we’re losing the hearts and minds of people due to our refusal to address critical topics.
This is where Dr. Moore and I agree, the church can only take this neutral, hands-off position for so long. There is coming a day when this position will result in a society that actively persecutes Christians. Dr. Moore said it this way:
“Total disengagement is itself a privilege of a cultural Christendom that is fast passing away. A church can avoid taking controversial stances on what it means to be human or what it means to be married only so long as the outside culture at least pretends to share the same basic ideals. A church can ignore the culture only until, as the divorce culture did in the past, that culture reshapes the church in a way that obscures the gospel itself. And a church can ignore the state only as long as the state respects the territorial boundaries of Mr. Jefferson’s “wall of separation.” A state that sees some aspects of Christian witness as bigoted and dangerous will not long stay on the other side of that wall.”
He’s right. The freedom to do nothing only came about because many Christian men and women first did something. But now we’re faced with the possibility of losing our freedoms if the trend of doing nothing continues. We need pastors and churches that can clearly and intelligently connect the Gospel to biblical moral positions that should be held by those claiming the name of Christ. Our new life in Christ should compel us to be active in our local community as advocates for the least. If our Gospel doesn’t propel us to action to reach those who not only need the Gospel but need an advocate, I think we’ve misunderstood the Gospel.