You Can Make a Difference

I gave an overview of the book of Ephesians on Sunday, and I mentioned that Paul identifies the Christian church and the Christian household as the two most important venues in which God makes known the gospel of Christ and advances the gospel of Christ. We'll consider that idea in much greater detail as we go through the book, but, until then, here are some tangentially related thoughts on how to apply that practically.

I see and hear lots of Christian conservatives who are very upset about the direction of our nation, but much of the political anger does not translate into any meaningful action that will actually move the needle. There is also an over-reliance on Supreme Court rulings or legal action to transform the culture. We should thank God for these political reforms when they come (as they have recently), but there's only so much they can do. There is a constant temptation to focus on the problems outside of our ability to influence while neglecting practical actions close to home that could really make a relatively small, but substantial difference.

In many cases, Christian conservatives have lost all credibility to criticize what other people are doing because they themselves are contributing to the very problems they decry. For example, many Christian conservatives complain about gay marriage or other celebrated sexual perversions but have themselves undermined biblical marriage by adultery in the form of unbiblical divorces. Or, they've managed to stay married but in such a way that has done more harm than good to public opinion about traditional marriage. In other words, before anyone complains about all the garbage on the side of the roads, it would be a good idea first to make sure that trash is not flying out of your own truck.

In many other cases, Christian conservatives complain about the problems they hear about from their favorite political commentators, but they won't do much of anything unless it really starts to affect them personally. So-called NIMBY ("Not in my backyard") conservatives generally just want to be left alone to pursue their own pleasures and don't get involved in their communities unless they think their own personal freedoms are at risk. Instead of making a positive, proactive contribution, many Christian conservatives only assume a defensive position of complaining, boycotting, etc. But you can't win a culture war by opposing godless culture. We've got to build a better alternative that displays the goodness of God and the transforming power of the gospel.

So, if you're concerned about the declining rates of church attendance and Christian faith, then pray for opportunities to invite people you know. What about the people in your own family or neighborhood that have stopped attending church or that don't know the Lord? And pray about ways that you could welcome new visitors that show up at church. We've had lots of people come and visit our church over the past several years, but new people generally don't stick around (especially in a small church) unless they form relational connections pretty quickly. You can't fix the decline of the church in our nation, but you can find ways to invest in our own local community and congregation.

If you're concerned about the decline of traditional marriage and the rise of sexual perversion, then be intentional about strengthening your own marriage. You could ask your pastor for help in working through a relational problem, or you could ask for a book recommendation to read together as a marital "tune-up". And as you work to grow in your own marriage, look for ways to encourage other Christian couples in faithfulness. You can't fix the decline of traditional marriage in our nation, but you can improve your own marriage and the marriages of people right around you.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Mt. 5:13-16)

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