It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. – Luke 5:31
If you could poke around in the recesses of my brain – past the favorite lines from Fawlty Towers, the pipe dream of driving a ’63 Riviera, the forgotten errands from three months ago – you would find a Christian who has had a bellyful of the culture wars. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with the substance of what my fellow believers are advocating. I just think they’re often waging the wrong battle – to redeem a world system that’s beyond redemption, while driving away very redeemable individuals.
The greatest beneficiaries of this tend to be the politicians who enlist in the army at each election season, then desert as soon as the votes are counted. The creeping redefinition of morality in family life, education, media and entertainment continues as before – as if any politician could arrest all of these trends.
Perhaps it’s just human nature that feeds the culture warrior mindset. It’s easy to throw stones from a distance. What’s hard is reaching your hands into the midst of the broken glass and trying to mend it. Still, I sense that I’m not alone in my weariness of the social standoff. I listen to what friends are saying, to what’s coming from some pulpits of late, to the lyrics Christian artists are writing, and I pick up a new and inviting spirit.
All of this has the feel of a pendulum starting to swing, so there’s a good chance some will ride it too far. The trick is to hop off at the right spot. No one should be invited to faith by the deception that they can enter a relationship with Christ and not be changed.
But doctors don’t stand in the streets and berate people for getting sick, and thus hope to cure them all. Your doctor works on your malady in close quarters. Jesus worked with sinners one on one – and still does. And so we ought to draw nearer to those we’ve been told to see as a threat.
Of this I’m pretty sure: unless you count the remnant of Israel sealed in the Book of Revelation, no nation or society is destined for collective redemption. There will, however, be millions of individual souls with a new citizenship at the end of time. So I am content to see the individual redeemed, and then let a conscience renewed by God be brought into agreement with Him on individual questions of right and wrong. Instead, Christianity often gets wrapped in a mantle of judgment, condemnation, fear and even hatred. We get ahead of God in judgment, trying to do His job on our schedule.
So what place does judgment have in a Christian’s life? We ought not be judging people, but we ought to be judging sin – that is, recognizing it and calling it for what it is. Otherwise, how would we keep our own lives clean, or know when to raise our voices against injustice?
Injustice. If there are any fronts to be contested in the culture wars, any issues worth a fight where the sacred meets the secular, they fall under this category. More on that in Part 2, when I stick both hands into a hornets’ nest built with shards of glass.