Shouldn't Somebody Do Something?

Christians have a responsibility to affect their communities and government, fighting for morality and preservation of  the traditional families.
By Tom Minnery

The pastor looked at me with his weary eyes. He was embarrassed and humiliated. He groped for words to explain why his church had suffered so much and why he and the other pastors had done so little about it. They had been trained by missionaries only to preach salvation and to stay out of controversial social issues.

This they did, until the people suffered so badly under their corrupt dictator that they turned to new saviors-left-wing ideologues who tried to help the people but who eventually plunged the country into revolution. When the guns finally stopped, 50,000 were dead.

This was Nicaragua in 1983, four years after the Marxist revolution, and I had gone there to see what lessons might be learned from a church that had sat on the sidelines while evil grew.

Could the pastors have stopped the course of events that led to the Marxist revolution? Not without God's miraculous help, certainly. But they did nothing and gave God no opportunity to work through them, and for this they were ashamed. I shall never forget them or what this means for us.

The present situation

Thankfully, we have no such extreme in our country. We are blessed with a stable government that invites the people's participation, but there are troubling signs. Year by year fewer Christians bother to vote, to lift their voices, to be salt and light, and we have seen hostile forces gain the upper hand.

Lawsuits against public religious expressions proliferate, the very definition of the family is attacked, and abortions are deemed a constitutional right. Still, in our country, cultural decline need not be a terminal illness. But even today we hear voices of some church leaders tell us to concentrate on evangelism and not be distracted by controversies.

Are we starting down the same road that will lead to rampant immorality and the rise of a tyrant or moral chaos? May God forbid, but I do know that a silenced, isolated and irrelevant church violates the mandate of Scripture. I believe that Christian leaders who tell us to ignore social problems fail to grasp the full significance of three important concepts:

Our Christian calling. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and four verses later He put it more directly: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness." Righteousness is a broad term in Scripture, and it includes everything that is right.

The first order of business, of course, is for people to get right with God by accepting the salvation He offers, but that does not exhaust the meaning of righteousness, and down through the years Christians have understood this and have left a legacy of reform.

In the early years of the church, Christians could make no impact on the evil Roman government because they were persecuted, but when the persecutions ended, they plunged in. They worked to end the right of fathers to beat their children, to abandon them or even sell them into slavery.

Christianity uplifted the plight of wives and mothers by giving them a say in how children were to be raised and property inherited. Until Christianity took root in Rome, women were little better than slaves. It is difficult to imagine how brutal this regime was, but here is a portion of a letter from a Roman citizen named Hilarion who, while away on business, wrote home to his pregnant wife Alis, whom he undoubtedly loved: "If . . . you have a boy, let it live. If it is a girl, throw it out."

The only reason people no longer write such shocking letters is that first- century Christians understood the meaning of righteousness and that it applied to the sanctity of all human life. Tragically, the practice of abortion today is leading us back to the barbarism of Rome, even as some church leaders warn the church away from such "distractions" as the fight against abortion.

Salvation. When someone accepts Christ's righteousness, he should recognize not only what is right, but what is wrong. It should not be surprising that someone who begins to understand the difference between right and wrong should take a stand against the great wrongs of the day. Many Christians have done just that.

During the height of the Second Great Awakening, the national revival in the 1820s, one young convert, Theodore Weld, enrolled in seminary in Cincinnati and saw up close the evil of slavery, which was legal across the Ohio River in Kentucky.

As a Christian, he could not ignore slavery, and so he began preaching against this evil in pulpit after pulpit, starting hundreds of local abolitionist organizations as a result. Thus there emerged from the changed heart of one young man a major boost to the new abolitionist movement that eventually freed the slaves.

Controversy. Christian leaders who strive to avoid controversy will only be blown about by the whims of the world, for while God's truth is constant, what is controversial changes with the times.

In 1871, The New York Times published a devastating exposé of a horrible enterprise that had opened its doors in New York-an abortion clinic. Ensuing public pressure shut it down, the result of the newspaper's crusade. At about the same time, across the Atlantic in London, a determined pastor named William Booth devised creative evangelism techniques to pull saloon patrons out of the bars and into his nightly preaching services.

He declared war on sin and on Satan, and he recruited an army, a Salvation Army he called it, to carry out his campaigns. He employed unheard of gimmicks such as marching brass bands through the red light districts to attract attention. In its early years The Salvation Army was highly controversial.

Don't miss the irony here. Today the world hates the pro-life movement, but for pastors, creative evangelism techniques are prized. Back then, the opposite was true. The point is that controversy, by itself, shouldn't determine truth, and God's truth should always be defended by God's people.

Today, thousands of Christians, including us here at Focus on the Family, are busy doing exactly that. They understand the full meaning of righteousness and salvation, and they know that it is the fickle world that determines what is "in" or "out," not any abiding moral principle.

These Christians have formed organizations that offer alternatives to abortion, they run for political office, they help the poor and the homeless, they defend the institutions of family and marriage, and they raise moral voices in praise or protest as needed for the good of all members of society.

These are people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and they accept the occasional persecution that Jesus said would come with this territory. They know what Christ has called them to do, and it is why they can't be silent.

Back to Top