May 14, 2008

It's A Secondary Issue!

"Keep your eye on the ball!" my coach would yell at me from the dugout. Having a habit of swinging with my eyes closed was producing disappointing results. His encouragement still rings in my ears from time to time. One such time was this evening.

Our regular crew had gathered to share needs and concerns as well as to gather around God's Word for a mid-week refill. In the midst of the sharing one gentleman spoke up concerning yet another shot fired in the culture war. I agreed that Christians need to let their voice be heard in this matter. It's fine to send a letter, or make a phone call, or even sign a petition to express your concern. However, this event, and many others like it, are secondary issues to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. In case you missed it, they are secondary.

While I hate that my children will likely grow up in a culture that has, in a short few decades, moved from modesty, courtesy, responsibility, and accountability to debauchery, rudeness, and recklessness I cannot bear the thought of my children inheriting a faith held hostage to secondary pursuits. The culture war is certainly real enough for all of us to acknowledge and I readily agree that there is much at stake. However, I patently disagree with how much of this "war" is being waged. Jesus clearly told His friends that their way was not to be the world's way. "As you know, the kings and great men of the earth lord it over the people; but among you it is different. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be greatest of all must be the slave of all. For even I, the Messiah, am not here to be served, but to help others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45. TLB)

The primary mission of the believer is not societal preservation but spiritual transformation. It is my firmly held belief that where there is effective spiritual transformation the resolution of societal issues will follow. I am disturbed by the incredible energy individual believers and churches will pour into the societal problem du jour. What if we poured as much energy into developing relationships with the people running the abortion clinics, or the homosexual couple living down the street from us, or the Muslim family that moved to town, or the alcoholic father ruining his family? What difference might that make? The clear mandate for followers of Christ is to proclaim the gospel, not to legislate morality. It is no wonder much of our society is turning a deaf ear to the church. I know I don't listen to negative voices for very long. As I've often said, our society knows what the evangelical church is against, I'm just not sure they know what we're for.

As I read the New Testament I am struck by the absence of boycotts, letter writing campaigns, or election year posturing by the early church. They simply shared their faith with a culture that was increasingly hostile to their message. I don't relish the notion of spending prison time. Neither do I cherish the thought of a martyr's death. Yet these are the very things that were commonplace for Peter, John, Barnabas, and Paul (just to name a few notables). I am equally struck by their single minded dedication to the task of sharing the good news of Christ's substitutionary death for sinners and His triumphant resurrection for believers.

Some guru is noted for saying, "Keep the main thing the main thing." Sharing the good news = primary. Everything else = secondary.

10 comments:

kevin said...

Great post; I couldn't agree more.

Brandon said...

John,

Here's a quote from Gregory A. Boyd's The Myth of a Christian Nation:

"Some may feel it best for society to outlaw gay marriage - others to allow it. In a democracy you're asked to give your opinion on such matters, so give it according to your conscience. I'm simply maintaining that , in our role as public representatives of the kingdom of God, Christians should stick to replicating Calvary toward gay people (and all people) and trust that their loving service will do more to transform people than laws ever could".

Seems to go right along with what you're saying - thought you may enjoy reading the quote.

I appreciate you keeping us focused on the main thing!

Paul Thompson said...

John,
Thanks for posting this one. When we are more known for what we are against than what we are for it may expose some of our loss of focus. "Keep your eye on the ball!" Have you ever wondered why they yell "keep your eye (singular) on the ball" and not "Keep your eyes (plural) on the ball"? These are the kinds of things I would think about while sitting in the dugout, on the bench, the only guy on the team with a clean uniform.

Random me said...

John,
Interesting post and I do agree. From another standpoint I often feel that the secular community (myself included) is guilty of this kind of negative reinforcement, we spend so much time talking about what we don't agree with or believe that we forget to focus on what we do.
You will be as aware as I am that many of the issues we face in our various societies often pull religion in as a kind of trump card, weather they are supporting the place of religion in society or not.
You have conversed enough with me to know my views on various related topics but I must admit to sometimes feeling distressed at the level of agression and anger that often enters debate when religion is connected to it, there often seems to be a fundemental lack of respect for differing beliefs, again from both sides.
Of course, I do believe it is important to speak your own truth, and to give your own take on someone elses, but we should all be aware that this shouldn't become an entirely personal attack, a trap that it is all too easy to fall into.
I suppose this is why I enjoy reading your posts and your responses to mine, its good to have healthy, civil conversation with an understanding that while many views may be different, in many ways all of us are essentially the same.

Lucy Arin said...

As I've often said, our society knows what the evangelical church is against, I'm just not sure they know what we're for.

Excellent point. I've often snottily smirked to folks who are of the religious right persuasion when they begin denigrating homosexuality or the like, "Didn't Jesus say 'Love one another as I have loved you'? I don't hear anything in that quote that says, well, love everyone who is just like you, don't like Islamics, don't like gays, don't like whoever."

I've yet to hear a response from that smart-alec-y snarking that provides justification for dissing someone else.

But then, we've discussed this before.

Well-written, props for that!

Paul said...

The clear mandate for followers of Christ is to proclaim the gospel, not to legislate morality.

Well, that sums it all up for me. Words of wisdom, John!

John said...

Thank you for your comments, one and all.

Kuya, short words but high praise from you. Thanks.

Brandon, good to have you on board in this format. You are apparently onto a gem of a book there. I accept referrals.

Idaho Paul, I know ALL about clean uniforms! Your dugout musings further confirm that I have found a kindred spirit! BTW - Got a two friends coming your way soon. One to visit, the other to serve in Colorado (I know, it's not exactly next door but it's a whole lot closer than Dixie!)

Random, thanks for being willing to engage civilly. When conversing with you and Lucy, I sometimes feel as if I'm speaking with someone from a different planet then I remember that we share the same planet! Religion certainly raises potent passions and it often seems the more shaky the truth the louder the voices. Truth (note the capital "T") needs no defense. It's obvious for all to see. Could this be why God doesn't feel compelled to shout at us?

Lucy, you again shoot close to the mark. You think like a kingdom dweller (come on in!). Jesus' strongest words were not for the 'obvious' sinners but for the self-righteous. At the same time, he made no bones about the condition of people's lives. Called 'em like He saw 'em. Cheaters (Zachheus), loose women (Woman at the well), adulterers (woman caught in the act) - you get the idea. The difference was that He ALWAYS offered them something better - the kingdom of God, here and now.

Over the pond Paul, as always, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the view from Europe. Blessings my friend.

To one and all, keep you eye(s) on the ball.

Mike said...

Great words. I think the enemy has tricked us. we as Christians are now off track. We want social transformation not recongizing that spiritual transformation produces changes in the way we live.

This seems to be the way all legalistic cultures work.

Mike said...

Very true...good words. I have often thought that the powers of darkness do not have to hinder the work of GOD, just distract us from what is important.

D said...

The apostles never had a letter-writing campaign. Yes, social justice for so many rich white liberals is wielding the pen. I once attended a service where they seriously prayed for the whales who were lost in SF Bay Area to find their way back to sea.

And they're down the street from Oakland.