I have just started rereading the book Issues facing Christians today by John Stott. I first read it over 30 years ago, but it is still very relevant, we face many of the same issues.
Stott challenges his readers to get involved in the world without compromising what we believe.
Some Christians, anxious above all to be faithful to the revelation of God without compromise, ignore the challenges of the modern world and live in the past. Others, anxious to respond to the world around them, trim and twist God’s revelation in their search for relevance. I have struggled to avoid both traps. For the Christian is at liberty to surrender neither to antiquity nor to modernity….It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world.
He acknowledges the temptation to withdraw from the world, this is something I know I have been guilty of in the past.
Fellowship with each other in the church is more congenial than service in an apathetic and even hostile environment outside.
But this is not an option for a follower of Jesus because
His lordship extends far beyond the religious bit of our lives. It embraces the whole of our experience, public and private, home and work, church membership and civic duty, evangelistic and social responsibilities.
However, we need to get involved in the right way. He suggests imposing our views on others doesn’t work. For example, the Inquisition in Europe which sought to combat heresy. Now Christians of all traditions are deeply ashamed that such methods could ever have been used in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet today dictatorships of extreme left or right still try by force to abolish opposition and compel assent. Imposing belief is unproductive. Similarly, imposing behaviour is also unproductive as was the case with prohibition forced on a relatively reluctant America at the beginning of the last century.
Doing nothing, as was true for much of the German church during the 1930 when Hitler rose to power is equally unacceptable. This was one of the many shocking things contained in the blog published last week by Phil Moore. Fifteen civil servants, some of them churchgoers didn’t raise a murmur as the plans for the holocaust was unveiled before them.
Some heroic individual Christians spoke out and most paid with their lives, but the official church and most ordinary Christians refused to condemn Hitler and his anti-Semitism.
I am now convinced that we need to engage at all levels in persuasion, we need to use argument to convince people of the truth. We need to be the conscience of the nation. We can’t just convince people by Biblical quotations, we must show the value of Christian morality, commending God’s law by rational arguments. We can do this because we believe God’s laws are both good in themselves and universal in their application because far from arbitrary, they fit the human beings God has made. Things are in the Bible because they are true, they are not true because they are in the Bible.
This challenge is probably more necessary now than when Stott first challenged us 30 years ago.
Written by Tony Thompson