The Church in a Culture of Conflict

Regardless of who controls the government, Christians have a clear responsibility

In the wake of last November’s rancorous elections, which once again revealed the fault lines in America, we now have a government divided along political and ideological lines. Many are fearful that the acrimony and division will only increase, causing some to shrink back in silence to avoid conflict and criticism.   

How should we respond? Win or lose, in calm or conflict, a Christian’s response to world events—elections included—remains the same. We must focus on our mission and our calling, part of which is to influence the world around us. We summarized that call in a challenge for the last election: to Pray, Vote and Stand. Pray for government, vote your Biblical values and stand for those truths that we know are the foundation for America’s greatness.

Even with a divided government, we have a lot of great opportunities. Let’s not forget what has happened in the last two years under the Trump administration, in which we have seen a re-establishment, a restoration and a revival of sorts of the First Amendment. We’ve watched religious freedom, both domestically and in our foreign policy, become a top priority.

Keep in mind that these gains were not accomplished through congressional effort, but instead were done through the Trump administration’s use of executive authority, and there is no reason why this restoration should not continue. 

It’s clear from the violence we’ve seen—from the mobs, the shooting of members of Congress and the harassment of administration officials and others in public life—that the rancor is going to increase. The social media giants are picking winners and losers, blocking those they oppose. People feel concerned for their careers, for their children’s future, and in some cases, for their very safety. And as last fall’s hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh illustrated, progressives are willing to go to great lengths to destroy the lives of those who disagree with them. 

We are grateful for those political leaders who do stand, and we should pray for them. But let us remember that the responsibility to speak in support and defense of timeless truths is first the responsibility of the church, the Body of Christ. 

A prominent political figure asked me a few years ago, “Tony, why do preachers want me to go on TV and talk about issues that they won’t preach about from their pulpits?” Great question. Too often, we look to our political leadership in Washington or in our state capitols to provide leadership in the spiritual and moral arena when it’s the church that should take the lead. 

MY BIGGEST CONCERN

The thing that concerns me most today is the lack of courage to stand and speak up for what we know to be right and true. Fear has paralyzed and silenced far too many Christians. The antidote to this fear is absolute trust in the Lord.  

Consider the words of the psalmist: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. … In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).

Fear paralyzes us, while faith and trust propel us forward.

As Paul instructed the Christians who were living in a very pagan culture in Corinth, we must be focused on the race that is before us; we must keep our eye on the prize. We can’t allow the acrimony and ever-increasing cultural division to distract us. Certainly, we don’t like it and we shouldn’t foster it. But we must not let it distract us.

When you consider that those who oppose President Trump are now in control of the House and that a hostile media will aid them, a lot of what’s going to happen in the next two years will fall into the category of distraction. If we become distracted, we will miss the opportunity that is before us.

COURT CONSEQUENCES

None of the priority issues for the evangelical community—religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of marriage—were decided by Congress. Congress didn’t take prayer out of our schools. Congress didn’t eliminate Bible reading. Congress was not the entity that said the Ten Commandments could not be posted on the walls of our classrooms or courtrooms. It wasn’t Congress that gave us abortion-on-demand or same-sex marriage. The courts forced those decisions upon America.

We have seen a historic shift taking place over the last two years after we went for over six decades with an activist Supreme Court that took on these issues that should not have been theirs to control. We are now moving to a high court that is tethered by and anchored to the Constitution. We are a part of something that will have an impact on our nation for generations to come.

KEEP STANDING

Just because this is not a major election year, it doesn’t mean that our work is done. There is a tendency among Christians to have what I call a minuteman mentality. I’m thinking back to the time of our Founding Fathers, when citizen soldiers did their real work in the fields but answered a call to battle when needed. We can think that our “real work” is plowing, harvesting, working, raising a family, and then all of a sudden there’s a call. There’s an election. There is a crisis. And when it’s over, we can go back to life as normal. I thought that way for years.

But our engagement in the broader culture, our responsibility to be light in a spiritually and morally dark world, is a part of our calling—it is our real work. Like Jesus, we are to be about our Heavenly Father’s business until He returns. That business is to be salt and light. It is to permeate the culture.

So what is next? We continue to pray: for our country, for our government, for our leaders—those we agree with, those we don’t—for our communities and for the people in our lives. We continue to serve the least of these, undeterred by the many distractions of those who reject our worldview. And we stand firm in defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

If we want the political leaders to follow the truth, we must live that truth and defend that truth. That doesn’t mean we have a Jesus chip on our shoulder waiting for somebody to knock off, but we also don’t hide our light, we don’t shrink back into the shadows of society, nor do we grow silent in the face of opposition or intimidation. 

Whether it’s in the workplace, on the school campus, in the political arena—wherever it is—we must stand for truth. Whether it’s received with gratitude and glee or it’s rejected with vicious opposition, it does not matter. As we have the courage to stand for that truth, we will soon find that we do not stand alone, as courage breeds courage and we remember that Jesus promises to be with us always, to the end of the age.  ©2019 Tony Perkins

 

The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, an ordained minister and host of the daily radio program “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.”