That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love. -Rose Tico
Have you ever heard the old saying about how anything could become a sermon illustration? The quote above is from the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’m sure if there had been internet and social media in 1977 everyone would have hated the original film too. But stay with me on Rose’s line.
It is often repeated in our world that Christians are more known for what they are against than for what they support. For some Christians that’s true and for others statements of what they support get twisted and they get accused of saying things they never did. Anything you say can be used against you is not just true when being arrested. That’s why we have to be careful. We have to be clear about our mission, our beliefs and our reasons. First with one another among believers and then with how we represent Christ and the Gospel to the world. I believe we are meant to be a positive influence on the world around us. I believe Christians can and should vote and be involved in the political process. There is only one President of the United States but across the country there are thousands of city councilors, school board members, county commissioners and so forth. Christian believers are active in every aspect of society as school teachers, doctors, lawyers, business owners and average Joe’s who punch a clock. We have to be part of our community but we cannot win the culture war.
The Apostle Paul knew that every Greek city-state he visited had a public bathhouse. I’ll keep it G rated but let’s not be naive. Paul preached the gospel, planted churches and trained young church leaders. He did not march in front of bathhouses carrying signs about things that God hates. The truth is that God hates sin but your message has to be more than that. God gave a list of commandments fully aware that the people he handed the tablets to were going to break every one of them. “These things are sin” is only the very beginning of the gospel message. Sadly some Christians never grow beyond repeating the list and pointing sins out when they see them. What did God do about it? The Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system were insufficient and God knew it would be. What did he do about it?
While the Pharisees were going about trying to convince first century Jews to do a better job keeping the commandments, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. The prostitutes and tax collectors were lost, fishermen and farmers were lost, the Pharisees were lost. The difference is that the Pharisees, the religious leaders of their day, couldn’t see it. Jesus told about a Pharisee that prayed in the temple, thanking God that he wasn’t like other men including a tax collector that was also there to pray. The tax collector would not even look up toward heaven, kept his head down, and prayed “Have mercy on a me a sinner.” There is none so blind as the one that will not see. When the Prodigal Son returned the father meet him, embraced him and then celebrated his return. The older brother would not join the party because he had been faithful to his father all along. He begrudged the father’s generosity and forgiveness. We must take care fellow believers that we do not become the older brother, begrudging the fact that God forgives those who have committed much worse sins than we consider ours to be. Jonah looked down on Nineveh from a high place and desired to see God’s judgement fall. The people of Nineveh got right with God. We don’t know if Jonah ever did or not.
God desires repentance and not retribution. He will be the righteous judge but his heart is not set on judgement. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. The fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few. Fields white unto harvest refers to the fact that we are surrounded by people that God loves, people that are stained by sin and filled with iniquity. Don’t get the mission field mixed up with the battle field. That list of people we sometimes quote that will not inherit the Kingdom of God? That’s who Jesus came to die for. That’s why he endured the cross. That’s why his body was broken and his blood poured out. Shame on us if we ever entertained the thought of those who do not believe our message suffering for it on the day of judgement. Jesus died to save sinners and we are sent into the world to preach the gospel, to share good news with those that are sin sick and dying. Do we have the heart of Jesus within us as Paul demands in Philippians 2? Or do wait for God’s judgement to fall like Jonah?
We fight against powers, principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places. Satan is the enemy. Members of Congress, abortion rights activists, LGBT parade marchers and actors in Hollywood are not the enemy. Those are people made in God’s image. That’s the mission field, not the battlefield. I’m not saying go out and support those causes. I’m saying we need to be deliberate and intentional as we consider the message we are sending. Are the things we are saying good news? The critics of Jesus saw him eating with publicans and sinners and he told them it is the sick who need the physician. When a Pharisee said to himself that if Jesus were a prophet he would know what manner of woman was touching him (Luke 7) Jesus told a parable about one who was forgiven little versus forgiven much. The woman was saved that day because of her faith. Are we interested in seeking and saving the lost? We will not do that by fighting what we hate.