Failure of the Church in the Modern World
Jefferis Kent Peterson
Didache Paper #102
During the time of Jeremiah the prophet, there came to reign in Israel the most righteous king the nation ever had. His name was Josiah (2 Kings 23). He pulled down all the idolatrous places of worship, he removed the occult practices, he purified the Temple, and he reinstituted just laws in the land. He was the hope of the righteous remnant in the nation, who daily cried out to God that they might once again see justice and God’s glory restored to Judah.
Now, however, conservative Christians seem to be pinning their hopes to the same false expectation: that the nation’s problems can be solved by a return to moral government through federal legislation. The thought is, “If we can just elect some moral leaders, we can solve this nation’s problems.” But we should learn a lesson from Josiah’s reign. Although he was the most righteous king who ever lived in Judah, his reforms were imposed upon the people from the top down. Rather than an expression of the majority of the populace, his reforms were actually welcomed only by a small, a truly devoted remnant. The hearts of the people were not challenged nor convinced by the change of leadership. They merely endured the change of kings and governments with disinterest. And as soon as Josiah died, the nation reverted to its former practices, and the gains he achieved were quickly lost.
The danger conservative Christians face is that even though they may elect a majority for a season, the laws and reforms they put in place will not last if they are not also the reflection of the will of the people. Instead, they will quickly see a backlash that reverses any gains they make. These gains will be especially vulnerable if conservative economic reforms fail to create a general prosperity. Indeed, the Republican majority in Congress already seems to be threatened by their failure to win the hearts of the populace with a conservative economic message . A reaction against a left wing, Democratic excess is not the same thing as endorsement of the moral and economic agenda of the Conservative Right. The gains so far achieved are tenuous at best. The lesson of history is simple. If the remnant Church wants to see a long lasting gain in a restoration of righteousness in the nation, it must do much more than seek a change in the political arena or merely seek the passage of new laws. A top down imposition of legalisms will do no more than create a resentment in the populace – a resentment that will result in an even greater backlash. As liberal laws failed to end racism in the human heart, so conservative laws will fail to change hearts committed to abortion and homsexual rights. Any long lasting gain is dependent upon a revival that changes the hearts of the vast majority of the American people, so that they desire righteousness. Then the laws that are passed become a reflection of the will of the majority and they are easily sustained for generations.
The Church has, by and large, failed its calling and so it seeks a remedy in a substitute savior: politics. Instead of going to God, who is surely able to deliver, it is falling prey to the same deception of liberalism: salvation by government program. Yet there is a promise in scripture that if the Church in America will repent of its complacency and self indulgence and seek the face of God and pray, then God will deliver the land in which his people dwell:
“…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, RSV).
If the Church will do what it is supposed to do, then God will send revival and the character of the nation will conform to the righteous will of God. Passing just laws will be easy, and the rejection of sin will be common place. Not only will sin be illegal, but it will become so socially unacceptable, that the threatened ostracism of the community will do far more to maintain righteous behavior in the people than the passsage of any laws. It is so important then, that the Church seeks its salvation in the only One who can deliver, Jesus Christ. And whatever gains its works for in the temporal arena, the Church should recognize that politics is, at best, only a means that can be used well if all the other requirements for revival are met.
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