The church is surrounded by moral chaos and we rightly feel the need to respond. It is this writer’s opinion that some of our response is not helpful. Calls for boycott and angry rhetoric about the moral decline seem to escalate the problem rather than help it. Too often we become two groups of people screaming at each other over a great divide.
Transformation of culture is not our job
In my reading of the New Testament, I see no commands to transform our culture. I believe that a transformed culture is a consequence of the church fulfilling her mission and not a primary goal.
The cultural context in which the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles had many similarities to today. Homosexuality, the breakdown of the family, materialism and philosophical confusion were prevalent.
In this context, Paul writes about personal transformation (Romans 12:1-2), but I cannot find any examples of where Paul encourages the church to participate in boycotts or any other behavior intended to force Christian morality on the society at large.
The church is called to make disciples. The miracle associated with disciple making is that God transforms the hearts of those who receive the Gospel. Those with transformed hearts then behave differently in society. It is this transformation of individual hearts and behavior that transforms culture.
We are called to teach the entirely of the Bible and allow God to operate through his word. But I do not see where we are to force others into accepting our beliefs.
Preaching to the deaf
Some will intentionally distort what we say. One example is the recent brouhaha over Dan Cathy’s remarks on traditional marriage. He said nothing against homosexuals or homosexual marriage, but did make statements in favor of traditional marriage. Those who were looking for an offense found it because an exclusive claim for marriage violates their sense of fairness.
Why is this the case? Isaiah 8:13-14 gives us a clue when Isaiah writes:
It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread,
Then He shall become a sanctuary
Similarly, John Newton penned these words in his song Amazing Grace:
T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.
The point is that until the Grace of God is operative in the people we are speaking with, they cannot understand much of what we say with regard to morality and social issues. It is grace that teaches hearts to respect a higher authority.
If you do not believe that God or anyone else has the authority to sanction a particular form of marriage, then “fairness” would seem to be in favor of not excluding homosexuals from the institution of marriage. It is not until someone has the recognition of authority that our statements about traditional marriage make any sense.
They cannot hear us because they are spiritually deaf.
Toward a proper response
Jesus left us with two Great Commands and one mission. The commands are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). The mission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The Great Commands and our mission should determine how we go about interacting with our culture.
There will be discussion and perhaps even argument, but in that discussion we need to keep in mind that we are called to a higher standard. We should reason with Christianity’s critics with the fruit of the Spirit in action. As a reminder, here is the list from Galatians 5:22-23:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
Paul tells us that against these traits there is no law. In other words, reasonable people will not take offense if we operate with these traits in action.
When we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) then we put ourselves in the position to be used by God to transform lives.
We must remember that God does the transformation and he does it at the level of the individual.
What do you think? When is the Church justified in taking social action such as a boycott or protest?