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Should Christians Bother Trying to Change the World?

Should Christians Bother Trying to Change the World?

by Mike Duran · 30 comments

For the second time this month, I lost sleep over this upcoming Presidential election. I shared that recently on Facebook and received a lot of encouragement to pray and trust God.

And then there were those who said something like this:

  • God’s kingdom is coming regardless of who gets in to office.
  • The outcome of this election, as is every election, is in the hands of God.
  • Don’t worry, God’s still in control. He’ll take care of us.

When political angst is voiced, responses like these are pretty common. I don’t disagree with them. It just seems there’s a lot more to it.

Katherine Coble wrote a terrific piece on this subject last week entitled Have You Sold Yourself Into Bondage? I’m guessing I was part of the crowd that inspired her.

How can you believe that your God is so sovereign as to CONQUER DEATH but then think that one country of finite people and its choice of finite men to fill one bureaucratic office for the relatively brief span of four years’ time is going to be the cataclysm that brings apocalypse?

The older I get the more convinced I am that political engagement is the bait of Lucifer. Yes, that’s strong terminology. So I better explain it. I am in no way saying that Christians should NOT be politically astute and politically active. I think as a Christian you have a responsibility to educate yourself about the choices and then vote accordingly. God calls us to engage this world responsibly, and first among those responsibilities in a Democracy is educated voting.

But there is a difference between being an educated participant in the electorate and lusting for power and control. No matter how often we tell ourselves that we must have our political way to end abortion or to keep the freedom of religion intact and that it is for those very Christianish reasons we care so much about who is President the fact remains that if you are in a place where you cannot clearly hear the words of God you have lost your way. (emphasis in original)

It’s a fantastic post that I encourage you to read in its entirety.

So is my anxiety unwarranted? Even worse, is it a possible indication that politics has become my idol, that I am “lusting for power and control”?

Michael Horton sounds a similar note in, “Fear Not Little Flock”: The King’s Promise Presidents Can’t Match:

…there is fear and there is responsible concern. Christians are called to be faithful in caring about and acting for their neighbors’ welfare. Our temporal good is wrapped up in the common good of our nation. We are right to be concerned about the value of human life and marriage, as well as “justice for all,” including our weaker and less privileged neighbors. We are faced with complex crises, foreign and domestic. Some wonder if they’ll ever find employment. Others fear that the economy will hit yet another, perhaps more catastrophic, dip. While the Arab Spring has become a scorching Islamist summer and dictatorships are replaced in some cases with jihadist sects, tensions continue to build between Israel and Iran. North Korea continues its threats, relations with China grow increasingly strained, and many feel a sense of vertigo about the future role of the U. S. in the world. These are not unimportant matters; they demand our attention.

Yet all of these anxieties get whipped up into a virtual frenzy at election time. It’s easy for opinions and strategies—even deeply-held political convictions—to morph into deified ideologies. Unrealistic hopes typically end in disillusionment and cynicism, if not something worse.

Once again, great points.

So I ask: Have I allowed a “responsible concern” to give way to “fear”? Have my “deeply-held political convictions” morphed into “deified ideologies”?

Contrast these perspectives with that of another Christian individual I spoke to last week. After expressing my same frustrations that we are losing our Moral center and gradually slouching toward a new Dark Age, this woman said, “Why worry about it? The Bible says it’s gonna happen. Things will get worse and worse until Jesus returns.”

And she’s right. Isn’t she? The world is falling apart and there’s not a damned thing any of us can do about it.

I’ve been trying to figure out why none of these answers satisfy me. I’m not happy assuming a detached indifference, resolving to simply ignore the smoldering cloud over Vesuvius. Neither am I satisfied to just shrug off the importance (or unimportance) of the Presidency. Just because “God’s on the heavenly throne” doesn’t mean I shouldn’t worry over who occupies the “earthly throne.” It matters when certain leaders occupy certain thrones. It matters even more when you have a voice as to who that will be.

My dilemma revolves around two ideas. Both of these ideas are Scriptural. But they exist in tension.

  1. The world is destined to get worse.
  2. Christians can — and should — change the course of the world.

It’s another one of those thorny theological paradoxes. But how does it work? How do we acknowledge that things don’t end pretty (see the Book of the Revelations), while still acting like our voice, our actions, our involvement, our beliefs, our prayers, our message really matters? How can you really affect culture if the world is predestined towards an appointed course?

Perhaps my problem is believing that Christians CAN change the world; that we CAN change the course of our nation. Not only that, but we SHOULD! No, I’m not a Dominionist. However, it’s impossible to read the Bible and not see individuals

  1. Worrying about the state of their nation, and
  2. Believing they can do something about it.

Take Joseph, who served in Pharaoh’s court, executed wisdom (much of it financial), and ultimately protected the nation from famine and economic collapse. Daniel, who served under Babylonian kings and so swayed Nebuchadnezzar with his godly visions and integrity that he was vested with political power (Dan. 2:47-49). And how about Nehemiah, who rose to the high ranking palace position of cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes, the King of Persia. In fact, Nehemiah was so worried about his people and the state of his nation, that the king called him on it:

…so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid — Neh. 2:2

Apparently, Nehemiah did not get the message that we should just “trust the Lord” and not worry.

Then you have God saying things like,

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. — II Chron. 7:14 (NIV)

Is this verse still applicable? Because I can think of  some “wicked ways” we might consider turning from and some “sins” our land needs healed from. In fact, some of those “sins” are justified by religious leaders, culturally embedded, and empowered by political systems and legislation. If we have the ability to change systems that are contributing to immorality and cultural decline, to not do so is sin.

Even more startling to me is the amount of Christians who dismiss the notion that institutions, laws, industries, presidents, judges, and propositions, contribute in any way to cultural decline. To re-quote Katherine:

How can you believe that your God is so sovereign as to CONQUER DEATH but then think that one country of finite people and its choice of finite men to fill one bureaucratic office for the relatively brief span of four years’ time is going to be the cataclysm that brings apocalypse?

I get what she’s saying. The problem I have is that at some point there WILL be an “apocalypse” that WILL have been paved by certain cultural / political forces. Of course, one president may not trigger the apocalypse. But do we dare miss the process of getting there? Can we confidently say that any one president, law, judge, or ruling isn’t part of the gradual process of cultural decline? I can’t.

If the election doesn’t go my way (or yours), the world probably will not end. Problem is, some day the world WILL end and you and I — or the officials we elect and the laws we approve — may have played a part. Whether through dispassion, deception, disregard, misguided zeal, or cowardice, our hands frame the future. God is on the throne. And culture is malleable. That’s the way I see it.

So, yeah: I worry about the world. I worry about America. I fear for American Christianity. I fear for my children and grandchildren.

And I think that fear is a good thing.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

sally apokedak October 29, 2012 at 7:59 AM

God is on his throne, but he uses secondary means to bring about his plans, right. He saves people, but how will they believe if they do not hear and how will they hear if no one preaches?

Jesus tells us to pray that workers will be sent out into the harvest fields. Our prayers are used by God and the workers in the harvest fields are used by God.

God is the carpenter and you are the hammer in his hand. He’s always given his people the privilege of working alongside him and working for him.

Worry, is not the proper response to the state of our country, though. Lament the way we’re going. Weep over the sin. Fight against it. But hold on to the hope that we have an inheritance, incorruptible, kept in heaven for us.

Nations will crumble, men will die. It has always been this way. We are to do what we can to change the world. We are to love God, love our neighbor, take care of widows and orphans in their distress, preach the good news, and to help the injured man in our paths. But we aren’t to worry. Because this earthly home is not our kingdom. Our city is an enduring one. It will never pass away. We are citizens of a kingdom what will never be destroyed. So we work here, we serve Christ by loving his brethren, but we keep out eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, so that we don’t grow weary in well doing. This world is dying. It has been for a long time. It will one day roll over and give up the ghost. But we are hid with Christ. We are children of the king.

Worry doesn’t really fit in that scenario.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller October 30, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Prayer is the most powerful action a Christian can take to change the world. If indeed God hears and answers prayer. I mean, is there something I can do better than God? Along with being the most powerful action a Christian can take, prayer might be the most neglected.

Becky

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Jill October 29, 2012 at 8:45 AM

I’m too cynical to worry over this presidential election. The candidates are two horns sprouting from the same beast. In light of that, why worry? I’m not cynical, however, of God’s ability to change people’s hearts and to use his people to be witnesses to the faith.

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Jon Mast October 29, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Heh.

I get involved in the political and even mentioned some ramifications of recent laws to Christians from the pulpit this Sunday — a first for me. Usually I go much more individual for application rather than national!

The text is what brought it on: Mark 13:5-11. I’ll quote it at the end of the comment here so you can see if you want. :)

In short, don’t be surprised. You mentioned it, Mike! Don’t be surprised when all this crap happens. Wars. Nations falling. America has never been the promised nation; we don’t have any promise from God that the US will survive until judgment day. Now, we’ve been blessed. We’ve seen some amazing things in this nation. I’d personally like to continue in this nation. That’s my preference!

Yet, don’t be surprised.

Even more: don’t be surprised when the Gospel survives, despite what happens to the nation. I’ve got a generally older congregation, and I know those women and men worry for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. There’s no need to worry: The Gospel will survive. The message that Jesus has died and taken away your sins and lives again, reigning in heaven for the god of God’s people — that message cannot die, no matter the turmoil that surrounds it.

Should Christians use their gifts to change the world? I usually focus on changing lives — and that has a big impact on the world. If my gift involves political action, do it for the glory of God! Absolutely!

But like you said, Mike: Don’t be surprised at the pain of the world… but even more, don’t be surprised when the Gospel survives despite the pain.

/sermon. :)

5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

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Jon Mast October 29, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Geez. I’m sorry — I realize I come off a little strong here. Chalk it up to a pastor seeing someone post on something that he just preached on.

TL;DR: Jesus says it’s gonna happen; don’t be surprised.

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Mike Duran October 29, 2012 at 12:40 PM

“There’s no need to worry: The Gospel will survive.”

I appreciate the encouragement, Jon. But there’s even elements of this that I struggle with. (I know I’m about to sound like a complete pessimist.) Scripture also says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (II Tim. 4:3). That false Christs and false gospels will be preached. And that”powerful delusion” will befall those of the last days (II Thess. 2:11).

Yes, the gates of hell will ultimately not prevail against the Church. the Gospel WILL survive. But I can’t help but feel that many, many will be deceived along the way.

Sorry for sounding so negative.

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Jon Mast October 29, 2012 at 2:28 PM

You’re right — and negative isn’t necessarily wrong! Hey, there’s a reason that Lamentations and Ecclesiastes made it into the Bible. Like so much of God’s Word, it’s a balance between two opposites — like you yourself have said!

1. It looks bad because sin is bad. Lots of people will fall away.
2. It’s going to be awesome. The Gospel can’t die. God’s in control.

So, yeah. A balance between the two!

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Melissa Ortega October 29, 2012 at 9:12 AM

No matter who is president, the U.S. is still largely a nation “of the people” – the presidents come and go, the people remain. Therefore, it seems like the better use of Christian elbow grease is in touching the people who vote. Their leaders serve only as a reflection of the culture, not the makers of it. Presidents are really just a culmination of political ideas – some of them whimsical – or even at attempt by the people to just try something different for a bit.

If the church put the same amount of effort into reaching the citizens with the good news as they did campaigning for lesser kings, imagine what might be accomplished. No matter our intentions, the message that goes out when we pour so much into political rallying is that God needs “X” in order “fix” things. But the good news is totally different – it says that all of *this* is irrelevant – that our citizenship isn’t even in this place – and that our deep satisfaction with the kings of this world is proof that our hearts know a better King exists. Earthly things matter, yes, but only meagerlly. The Christian should definitely be in his world – not of it – but in it – participating – but worrying about what we will wear, or eat, or how we might be taxed, or what “freedoms” we may or may not have tomorrow, is a waste of our energy. It is the ability to not worry about these things that sets us apart – that makes the gospel message desirable. Only, there we are, at the foot of the platform at the latest political rally holding up that magic markered sign that screams “politicians are more powerful than God!!” right along with the rest of them and one hears the sound of the gospel deflating.

Hear His Voice. Vote how He would have you vote – and let tomorrow take care of itself.

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Melissa Ortega October 29, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Sorry – our deep DISsatisfaction

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Mike Duran October 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Good word. I agree with this, Melissa. Don’t know if you saw my recent post, “What’s Wrong With the Culture War Mentality,” but I made a similar point:

“I’ve come to believe that religion is more to blame for the state of the government than the government is for the state of the nation. If the government is reflective of the nation’s values, then it’s at the level of values that Christians should focus, not at the level of government. Am I suggesting that politics are not important. No. But if our focus is primarily political, we are in danger of erecting a cultural facade without any substance.”

So I agree with your point. My problem is that so much evil DOES come through political systems. I recently watched a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Unlike many of the churches who caved to Hitler’s Third Reich, Bonhoeffer and the confessing church took action. Were they denying the King and His Kingdom by doing so? No. They were in fact honoring the Gospel by standing against the political, social tide.

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Melissa Ortega October 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Hey, I know a ton of Christians with similar wranglings, myself being one of them. It’s hard to look back on history for an example because the U.S. is so unique. I definitely think Christians should be invovled in government (which is why I worked for ours for over a decade) and I think there is a time to fight – however, Scripturally there isn’t ever a point where we should worry.

And for me, there is a big line between what Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce fought against and being taxed on health care, etc., or come of the other issues Christians seem to be fighting against. I don’t think the message of God’s love gets lost in the fight against genocide or slavery, but I do think it’s been lost in some of the fights being waged today.

It’s why knowing His Voice is more important than ever. Grief, remorse for man’s turning away from God, mourning for lost love – I think God understands those things and understands when those things keep us up at night. Worry is a different animal – but it is so easy to let remorse evolve into worry.

I know that I felt something shift culturally a couple of years ago and knew that the time for my exit from government had arrived, but I’m certain other Christians felt a similar urging to step in.

God is sovereign. I lean on that more than ever. The older I get the less enchanted I am by any and all goverment and the more I appreciate the goodness of our God who never leaves us, never fails us. Elections come and go, but His mercy endures forever!

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Mike Duran October 29, 2012 at 1:27 PM

“…there is a big line between what Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce fought against and being taxed on health care.”

I agree with you on this. However, I have long felt that legalized, government funded abortions may be the greatest evil of our time. It is a modern day genocide. But how can one oppose that issue nowadays w/out being portrayed as a unloving, narrow-minded, fanatic? Perhaps there ARE Bonhoeffers and Wilberforces fighting that battle now. We’ve just been culturally conditioned so as to dismiss them.

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Melissa Ortega October 29, 2012 at 1:48 PM

“legalized, government funded abortions may be the greatest evil of our time”

True. But this is not the only thing at stake in the current fight to provide health care, and the problem with the current Christian culture war is (imho) it has been too lazy to adequately delineate its stance on this specific subject and the attempt to aid the poor. The opposite views itself as defending the poor who have no means to obtain medical care and the Christian “wing” as opposing this effort. The propaganda on this subject has, once again, overwhelmed the truth. In large part, this has happened because many Christians have not kept to these very specific issues, but have also complained about peripheral issues (like paying taxes to cover the health care bill for the alien) that lend a more selfish tone to their views. I understand their argument and its ties to an overall freedom, but this argument has been colored by less than charitable cohorts who really are just more interested in keeping money in their pockets. It’s the “I’m with them” problem. Christians have tied themselves to political groups, news channels, commentators, that have muddied their own message.

As for how one can oppose that issue without being portrayed as a fanatic, I think the answer is: does that really matter? I mean, it does….but does it matter more than not doing it? No. I don’t think so. Wilberforce was considered loopy, etc. The enemy will oppose our efforts with everything in his book – he will say evil is good and good is evil. That *will* happen. It happened to Paul – it happened to Jesus. If we do what is right, Jesus even promised that the world would paint a poor portrait of us.

We can only avoid so much. But I think we can avoid more by aligning ourselves with fewer REAL fanatics. It embarrases me when I hear Christians talking about listening to certain political figureheads. Fine, if they want to listen. But don’t talk about it. Jesus should never be seen through the filter of some other cultural entity. He should be first in line in your message – but when Christians associate their views with obviously contraversial, hyper-political personalities, they place that name on top of His – they conversationally put a filter over His name that says believing in Jesus leads to this sort of belief/behavior.

As for the war on abortion, it has made some head way that I think folks sometimes forget. Partial birth abortion was definitively outlawed with overwhelming support by both parties. How did that happen? Education. Once they saw the facts, they could not support it. This was how Wilberforce slowly tore down the cultural support of slavery. He showed people firsthand what it did. And he was willing to spend his lifetime chipping away at that. Science is definitely revealing more and more and more to the world daily about those unborn children. Just as the world began to see the African as fully human, they may sometime soon learn this about the voiceless child. I don’t think this will happen via people screaming outside abortion clinics or attacking abortion doctors. It will happen when Light completely illuminates the reality of what is happening inside the clinic.

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Jon Mast October 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM

I’ve just had a LENGTHY discussion with someone who said I had no right to decide what would happen in a woman’s body. He told me I had no traction with him because I only cared about the baby and not about the woman.

I then told him about how I serve at a pregnancy clinic and help out pregnant moms. Oh, and also do post-abortion syndrome counseling — meaning, I serve you whether or not you agree with me. I prove my compassion for mom AND child with my actions.

I think that’s a HUGE way to oppose without seeming unloving: putting our hands where our mouths are. Showing that compassion for BOTH mother and child. After all, if I’m loving the mom, even after an abortion, doesn’t that prove that I care for the woman as well? That’s not unloving!

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Kessie October 29, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Like Tolkien’s elves, it’s our task to fight the long defeat. Besides, without Christians, slavery wouldn’t have been outlawed in England, the US wouldn’t exist, as well as many other things we take for granted, like antibiotics. We can’t just lie down and say, “Aw well, the world’s gonna burn anyway, why should we care?”

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Lucas Dawn October 29, 2012 at 10:39 AM

There were powerful leaders in the kingdom of Israel who changed the “world” of their nation (and even some other nations, like Joseph in Egypt). But when Jesus announced a new kingdom, the kingdom of God (heaven, in Matthew), he was not trying to reform Israel (or Rome); his kingdom of disciples would be a contrast to the kingdoms of earth (including Israel). Much of his teaching is about this contrast, and he meets fierce opposition from Jewish rulers, especially the scribes and Pharisees, who ruled over the synagogues, the headquarters of local Jewish communities, where the scribes interpreted and enforced the law of Moses for their nation. The result was crucifixion; yet our king says take up your cross; if we lose our lives now (our hopes for national reform and glory), for the sake of Jesus’ controversial little mustard seed kingdom of disciples, we will simply “inherit” the final glory of the kingdom of God.

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Mike Duran October 29, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Thanks for commenting, Lucas. I’ve never bought that there is that drastic of a disconnect between Old and New Testament examples. Jesus referenced plenty of O.T. figures w/out qualification. And does this mean that “kingdom living” requiress being a-political? Jesus said to give to Caesar what was his due, clearly recognizing that something IS due our Caesars. I dunno. Losing my life doesn’t mean turning a blind eye while injustice occurs or religious freedoms are trampled. Does it?

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Lucas Dawn October 30, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Because Jesus confronted Jewish rulers (especially the scribes and Pharisees), he was not a-political. He was challenging them, and warning them–due to their hypocrisy, deceit, hate, and violence. But his new kingdom would not be a reformed kingdom of Israel; from the beginning he announced the kingdom of God (heaven), a kingdom of disciples who obeyed him as king.

Jesus’ teaching is all about the disconnect between Old and New Testament, between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of God (heaven). When Jesus references Moses in Mt. 5:21-48, he is qualifying what Moses said in contrast to what he (Jesus) says. With murder and adultery he “expands” the meaning of those laws of Moses, but with divorce, using oaths, revenge (eye for an eye), and hate (enemies), Jesus changes the law of Moses. The climax is Jesus saying they (his disciples) have heard (in the synagogues, from the scribes) that it was said (by Moses), you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. The first part (about love) is a quote from Lev. 19:18, where the neighbor is “the sons of your people;” the second part (about hating enemies) references verses like Lev. 26:7, where the enemies are the Canaanites, to be chased and cut down with the sword. Jesus “qualifies” Moses here by saying his disciples, his kingdom, should love their enemies. (This also relates back to his beatitude about the meek, the gentle, who simply inherit the earth in the end from their Father, rather than fighting enemies over land, even the promised land.)

As for Caesar, what is due Caesar is what Caesar has put his name and portrait on: the Roman denarius coin. When asked about Roman taxes, Jesus asks to see this coin and asks them whose picture and writing is on it. They reply “Caesar’s,” and indeed his picture was there with the inscription, Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus. The coin was blasphemous. So Jesus says give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but give to God the things that are God’s. Why would a Jew want to keep that coin anyway? Give it back as fast as you can. For Caesar is not God. (As for giving to God the things that are God’s, Jesus’ parable just before this about the wicked tenants spoke of giving the owner of the vineyard “his fruit,” obedience, as demanded by his servants, the prophets. And unlike that kingdom, of Israel, Jesus will start another kingdom that will produce fruit, obedience to him and his Father.)

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Rebecca LuElla Miller October 30, 2012 at 3:54 PM

Lucas, I have to disagree with your assessment that Jesus’s teaching was all about the disconnect between the Old and New Testaments. I actually wrote a blog post about the subject just yesterday. Here’s the key verse

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47)

Jesus Himself quoted from the Old Testament, as did the New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And after Jesus was resurrected He explained to His disciples on different occasions the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets as they pertained to Him. Clearly He viewed the Old Testament as authoritative, not as something outdated to be ignored.

Becky

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Lucas Dawn October 31, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Hi Becky,

You are right that Jesus and the N.T. used the O.T. and its inspired words to help explain how Jesus fulfilled God’s promises and plans. Yet the fulfillment was on a whole new level of revelation than the O.T. (and those using it) expected.

So the Gospel of John does quote Jesus about believing Moses and his writings in 5:46-47. This passage comes after the Jews are wanting to kill Jesus because he said his Father was working still (on the sabbath), and he was working (by healing the lame man) (5:17-18). Their focus on the Jewish sabbath blinded their perception of this much greater revelation of the Son of God. Their focus on monotheism led to hating Jesus for making himself equal with God. The O.T. did not really prepare them for this; they thought Jesus was way out of bounds from what they knew from the O.T.

John’s Gospel shows the awesomeness of this fulfillment from the beginning: “in the beginning was the Word” and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (1:1,14). The creation of Gen. 1:1 is revealed in a whole new light; and the presence of God on earth is on a whole new level with the incarnation; Jesus is now the “temple” where God “dwells” (tabernacles) among us; while there was a certain level of grace and truth with Moses and the O.T., Jesus fulfills all this to the point that he is the one who is “full of grace and truth.” This distinction between Jesus and the O.T. can also be spoken of as a contrast: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). Jesus, above all, much more than Moses, is the one who has made God known (1:18).

So John is not ignoring the O.T. but he is showing that Jesus goes far beyond what the O.T. revealed (both in grace and in truth).

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Rebecca LuElla Miller October 31, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Hi, Lucas,

I’m certainly not discounting Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God. Also He had the authority to explain what “don’t murder” meant. He also had the understanding to explain the Scriptures so that those who thought one thing and were wrong would see the truth. It’s not the fault of the Old Testament that the religious leaders of His day thought the Messiah was someone else. It’s not the fault of Scripture that they thought they could manipulate the Law to benefit their own pocket.

Their error is theirs, not the Old Testament.

Becky

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J.S. Clark October 29, 2012 at 12:31 PM

The way I reconcile this for myself: are we called to change the world or to be a change in the world? Does the light change the objects in the room, or just make them distinct?

I think worry comes from thinking the outcome is important, when what is important is that we God’s will. Our works give the Father glory, not the results. Should we fight? Vote? Yes, because that is a way to be a witness to be that light. And theoretically, there are times when actual fighting should take place. Those could both be seen as political or militant actions, but the point is not the form but the root. Doing righteousness.

We should witness, we should BE a difference because it is right. But we should not worry about the result. That part is God’s business. If we are losing peace about what’s going on, our focus is wrong. It’s not a matter of different action, but different persepective.

Hmm . . . so I guess the answer would be, if you are worrying then yes you have made an idol out of poltics. I’m right there with you, but in this case taking up your cross means putting down Rome’s.

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Jessica Thomas October 29, 2012 at 6:47 PM

I’m feeling stress because of the upcoming election. I see the potential for the economic climate to get worse, and quite frankly, I don’t enjoy pain. According to the Bible, Jesus wasn’t so keen on the actual crucifixion part, so I like to think I’m in good company.

I think we need to be read for Jesus to come tomorrow and for Him not to come for another two thousand years. I don’t like watching my kids in pain either, so I feel a duty to them and future generations. I also feel a duty to those who’ve died so I could prosper. I take it personally when their memories are trampled over.

I know I need to let go and let God, but I also know sometimes anger is righteous and justified. If only it were always easy to discern between the two responses.

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Linda B October 30, 2012 at 1:54 PM

Informed voting, and caring about the direction our country is heading, are manifestations of responsible and Godly stewardship. Caring a great deal about something is in no way the same thing as worrying. The same God who has redeemed us has also given us freedom, democracy, and the right to govern ourselves within His established framework. We have a moral obligation to vote responsibly for candidates who, among other things, will support laws and policies that foster a climate in which the church can thrive and spread the gospel. The good news does not say that all of “this” is “irrelevant.” I’m annoyed with Christians who oversimplify or ignore politics, or who live with a doomesday mentality, because it reflects their ungratefulness and unwillingness to be good stewards of what we possess in the here and now. And no, I’m not talking about environmentalism. The earthly work of Jesus is always about redemption and restoring all things for the time when He presents the kingdom to the Father. Our work is to follow in His steps.

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Bob Avey October 30, 2012 at 3:09 PM

I’ll take option 2, Mike. Yeah, it all comes down to God’s will. But God does hear our prayers, and it doesn’t hurt to petition for what we believe to be right or wrong, good or evil.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller October 30, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Mike, I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that we are to change the world. We are to let our light shine so that men will see our good works and glorify our Father. We are to preach the word, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us. We are to honor the king, submit to him, for the Lord’s sake, and to other governmental officials. We are to love God, to fear Him, to love our neighbors, serve them, do justice, love mercy, walk humbly before our God. We are also to love the brotherhood, edify one another, build each other up. I just don’t see “change the world” in any of it.

Will God use our obedience to change the world? He did so in the past. But I think our goal shouldn’t be so short-sighted as to change our culture at this one point in time. There are people whose eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Isn’t that more important than whether or not we can afford to buy the next new iProduct? (Some people are most concerned about the upcoming election because of the effect it might have on the economy).

One of the most disturbing things I heard on the LA area news was how the storm on the East Coast was going to impact our wallet. Really? People are dying, losing their homes, and oh, no, products and services out in the West might be delayed a day. Really, where is our perspective?

Sorry, that’s mostly an unrelated rant, but I think our vision is too short sighted and our focus too much on self.

Becky

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Lyn Perry October 30, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Ha, I posted my thought the same time Rebecca did hers. Ditto, then.

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Lyn Perry October 30, 2012 at 4:12 PM

We’re called to influence, but not transform. Transformation is the work of Holy Spirit.

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C.L. Dyck October 31, 2012 at 12:27 AM

“one president may not trigger the apocalypse….”

Mike, with due respect, that is SO American.

There was a Babylon. There was a Persia. A Greece. A Rome. A British Empire. An America.

And I have lived in none of them, and the world changed for the advancement of God’s purposes when they rose and when they fell.

That doesn’t change our responsibility to be salt and light in each of our cultures, but I do think Americans take a mantle on themselves that isn’t ultimately theirs. It’s God’s. The end of America would be an apocalypse, but not necessarily The Apocalypse.

To be perfectly honest, voting in Canada causes me stress and anger and indignation too–not least because our multi-party system, for all its variety, doesn’t actually offer much of a spectrum of genuine options.

But I keep reminding myself, it doesn’t mean we have to go crazy when the world does.

You might be interested in the series E Stephen Burnett has had going at Speculative Faith lately. Kerry Nietz and Marc Schooley have been debating the nature and extent of political and cultural involvement by Christians. It starts here:

http://www.speculativefaith.com/features/speculative-politics-1-perspectives-from-kerry-nietz/

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D.M. Dutcher October 31, 2012 at 9:58 AM

I think Christians should change the world, but politics is not the way most people are called to do so. Even the ones that are wrestle with corruption and mission creep, and I personally think that politics in general should be avoided completely. Apart from local politics, most of us simply can’t do any reasonable good through that medium, and far too many political Christians have went down in flames the longer they have stayed in that arena. We do have our own roles to fulfill in the Kingdom of God, but they are things we can do to good effect.

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