The following is from an email conversation I had recently
with a dear friend, one who is pouring her life out for her kids and
for her neighbors. She is a passionate, joyful, loving Christian with a mind
fully awake. She is concerned about those in her city who are actively and
angrily subverting her efforts with her own kids and with other Christian families.
This is struggle over public culture, and as much as some secularists have
reason to despise a tiny minority of sealed-minded, despotic “Christian”
rightists, her stories of struggle demonstrate that some (I said some)
secularists are every bit as angry and close-minded in contending for their visions
of meaning and moral order.
I don’t pretend to have an answer for such grave matters, but
we thought it valuable to discuss these matters. This is what I wrote.
Christians must not contend for souls and culture in a Nietzschean
way. We know the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, but
we don’t know what the Church will look like vis-à-vis culture when Christ
returns. The question for us is will He find us faithful? Cultural
dominance is not a factor in the New Testament, but faithfulness is. If
our faithfulness and God's sovereign working results in cultural influence or
even dominance, as at other periods in Western history, so be it. But if our faithfulness and His sovereign
upholding of the world results in our being a remnant of martyrs, so be it. His
kingdom is not of this world and while we are to pray
and work to extend His kingdom in
this world, this is not our home.
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My inspiration is Abraham, as the author of Hebrews writes:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was
called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he
went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of
promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with
him of the same promise. For
he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and
builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10, emphasis mine.)
For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a
homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which
they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country,
that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14-16, emphasis mine.)
Paul also addresses this subject to the Philippians, a people acutely aware of
what Roman citizenship meant amidst an empire filled with non-citizen subjects.
Philippi was a Greek city conquered by Rome
and made into a “colony of Rome.”
Many residents were veteran legionnaires because Caesar gave Philippi
to them as reward for the soldiers’ service to him. The Philippians had a
Roman governor, Roman laws, Roman customs and they were exempted from the tax
paid by subjugated peoples. Being a citizen of Rome
was of great importance in the Empire.
So what does Paul tell the Christians in Philippi?
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His
glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
This is not our home. We are sojourners who love, work, suffer, grieve, invest,
celebrate, lose, create, hurt. In our faithfulness as subjects we
participate in the renewal of all things, but there is One who sovereignly
effects that renewal. We sow in hope, not in demand that our efforts obligate
Him. We sow like Bengalis build homes on the
coast, not knowing when or if another tsunami will destroy it all. We love
and work because it is our command and our joy, though we often suffer
loss. Amid both joy that never quite satisfies and gut-wrenching hurt we
are reminded that this is not our home.
It is not for us to control or to make things happen. That’s why we
emphasize being faithful, knowing the outcomes are in the Lord’s hands. Being
faithful means rejecting the weapons of this world. We will not fight as they
fight. Nor will see our ideological opponents as ‘the enemy,’ because we
wrestle not against flesh and blood. We could lose the whole world and yet
through Jesus gain our souls. This is not a call for disengagement from
culture, but rather a call for serious engagement that simultaneously holds our
hands open to the Lord and says, “It’s Yours. Our hearts and bodies are
invested and so we hope, but it’s Yours. Do what You will, for You must reign.”
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom
to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all
His enemies under His feet. 1
© 2006, Glenn Lucke.