“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
Who took the fight out of the church?
The last time the church took a public stand for righteousness was during the civil rights movement of the sixties. It would be hard to argue that our society has become more righteous since then. Religious freedoms are under constant pressure from groups like the ACLU, NOW, the major media, public schools, and the courts. Christian institutions like marriage and the family are under relentless attack. Unborn babies are being slaughtered by the millions. Are these not matters worth fighting for?
It is unusual for a preacher to address these matters today, much less call his people to action. The church was not like this during the founding of our nation. Pastors used to rally their congregations to arms in the struggle for freedom. Sometimes they even led their men into battle. The early church was not like this either. Consider, for example, the actions of the apostles in the book of Acts.
Three Brave Apostles
Two stories from the New Testament provide a study in contrast between the timid tendencies of the modern church and the boldness of the early church. One is the story of Peter and John and the lame man and the other is the story of Paul and the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
An unusual thing happened to Peter and John on the way to the temple for prayer one day. A lame man was lying by the entrance begging for handouts. Peter took a look at him and offered him something far better. He told him to stand to his feet and be healed in the name of Jesus. Then he took the man by the hand and lifted him up. The man stood to his feet and began to walk. When the people saw the lame man walking around just like everyone else, they rushed to him. Peter and John then stood up in their midst and told them about the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Of course, when the religious leaders got wind of what was going on, they came running too. Only they were not as concerned about the obvious miracle that had taken place as much as protecting their own power and influence. So, they called Peter and John to account. By what authority had they done this deed? Peter and John boldly proclaimed the power and authority of Jesus Christ, placing blame for His crucifixion squarely on their accusers’ shoulders.
“If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel… It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 9–12)
Because the healed man was a walking, talking testament to the power of Jesus Christ, there was nothing the religious leaders could do but enjoin the healers to keep their mouths shut. Of course, this was a non-starter for Peter and John. Can you picture your pastor taking an in-your-face stance for Christ like Peter and John did?
Paul Confronts a Mob
Paul also had a confrontation with the authorities. In Acts 22, against the strong objections of the believers in Tyre and Caesarea, he returned to Jerusalem. A believer named Agabus prophesied that Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles there, but Paul was determined to complete his journey even if it meant death.
The Jews in Jerusalem had been spreading the rumor that Paul told the Asian Jews to abandon the Law of Moses. In an attempt to demonstrate his devotion to Mosaic Law, Paul took four Jews from the church in Jerusalem and paid for their purification rites. Just as he was winding up the seven-day purification process with them, some Jews from the province of Asia spotted him in the Temple and stirred up a riot. The commotion became so great that a contingent of Roman soldiers was sent to quell the disturbance. They had to carry Paul out of the temple on their shoulders in order to get him to safety. Once outside, Paul asked the commander for an opportunity to address the crowd. He began his talk with a recitation of his impeccable religious credentials and the story of his conversion. When he got to the part where God called him to minister to the Gentiles, the people erupted in a cacophony of shouting and sand throwing.
So, the Roman commander rushed Paul off to the barracks for a flogging to appease the crowd. Just as the soldier was winding up for the first crack of his whip, Paul appealed to his rights as a natural-born Roman citizen. The commander was so alarmed that he unchained him immediately.
Afraid to stir up insurrection among the Jews, the commander decided to turn Paul over to the religious leaders for trial. This was dangerous territory for Paul. The jury was stacked. The evidence was prejudiced. The judges were all biased! Realizing this was a no-win situation, Paul tried to change the subject. He stood up and proclaimed that he was a Pharisee on trial for belief in the resurrection of the dead, a subject that divided the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees in the room cried out against him and the Pharisees rallied to his defense. The courtroom became so unruly that the Roman Commander had to return and escort Paul back to the barracks.
The next day the Commander packed Paul off to Caesarea to be tried by the Roman authorities in that town. Ultimately, Paul had opportunities to testify before Roman authorities throughout Asia Minor all the way to Rome. Although given the opportunity to return to Jerusalem for trial, he turned it down (smart man) and appealed to Caesar instead. After all, he would never get a fair trial in Jerusalem. So, he got his chance to give witness to Jesus Christ before the Roman emperor, as God had planned.
When I was young we used to talk about how the sexual revolution would some day end in gay marriage. People scoffed at the idea. In fact it did take many years to get to gay pride and gay marriage. Then transgenderism quickly followed on its heels and gender dysphoria literally hit us overnight as the Obama administration suddenly redefined Title X anti-discrimination provisions to include people who identify as the opposite sex. The next thing you know, we were being forced to allow men into women’s locker rooms and bathrooms. In just the last few weeks states have begun legalizing abortion up to and including birth. In other words, infanticide has been sanctioned by the legislatures of some states. Marijuana use has also been legalized by many states in just the last year or so. Public schools are teaching our children about alternate lifestyles and asking little children to re-consider their own sexual identities. Parents are penalized for interfering. State-sponsored gambling is proliferating. Non-citizens are being granted driver’s licenses and allowed to vote and even be counted in the census! It seems these attacks on traditional Judeo-Christian values and our founding principles are unending.
So Where is the Church?
Where is the church in all of this? Are they confronting these evils? No. Instead they are busy with such things as sports programs and vacation bible schools and singles ministries and short term missions projects, etc., but they aren’t engaging in the fight over our nation’s future. That would be political. These issues are only political because evil people have successfully legislated their own immorality. They have crammed their godless values down our throats as we have backed away from the political arena at their insistence. Thank God there are still Christians involved in the fight through para-church organizations. But, unfortunately, they have little support from the institutional church.