Hey, Calvary Fremont –
With the leak of the memo outlining the Supreme Court’s impending decision overturning Roe v Wade, there has been much rejoicing among the opponents of abortion – and there should be. Yet let’s not imagine that a revival is sweeping the nation. The Bible says that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Don’t mistake righteous laws for righteousness. Righteous laws do not make a righteous nation. Israel had the most righteous laws on the planet and yet unrighteousness sent that nation into exile for 70 years and diaspora for almost two millennia. Establishing righteous law does not enact righteousness, nor does it ensure righteousness. The State makes laws to control the behavior of its citizens, but can the State rise above the character of her citizens? I think the answer is NO. Prohibition is a good example of this.
National prohibition of alcohol (1920–33) — the “noble experiment” — was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts. https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/alcohol-prohibition-was-failure
Can a government rise above the character of her citizens? If Prohibition is any indication – the answer is NO. The law can’t take people where they don’t want to go. Culture molds politics; politics doesn’t mold culture. We can appeal to the government to pass any number of righteous laws, but an unrighteous people will thumb their nose at it. Should Christian citizens seek to influence government? Of course. But please know that this is a limited good. Let’s get all the Christians we can in government. But let us also be very realistic about this and know that the increase of Christians in legislative positions will not increase the righteousness of the nation. The proliferation of righteous laws will not increase the righteousness of the nation. They can increase the well-being and prosperity of the nation, but not its righteousness. I am neither a pessimist nor a killjoy – I am a Christian realist whose realism is derived from a study of the Scriptures and living life for 69 years. We should all be grateful if Roe v Wade is overturned. Yet this will be more a legislative than a moral win.
My dad worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company when I was growing up and he was always bringing home catalogs. They advertised a lot of their merchandise by picturing three different items and labeling them Good, Better, or Best. So – here’s a good lawnmower, here’s a better lawnmower, and here’s the best one. Similarly, we can announce that it is Good to strike down unrighteous law. We can affirm that it is Better to enact righteous laws. And we can assert that it is Best to see people converted to Jesus Christ. The Good and the Better are in the wheelhouse of the government – the Best is the mission, mandate, and message of the Church. It is the assignment of the government to establish and maintain righteous civic rule – to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. It is the assignment of the Church to preach the gospel and win people to Jesus Christ. The State is not to baptize people and the Church is not to issue tickets to lawbreakers. The State bears the Sword. The Church bears the Cup of Christ.
A nation doesn’t need righteous laws before righteousness can take root and blossom, but it does need righteous people. The Church of Jesus Christ took root and grew within the pagan environment of the Roman Empire. This Empire wasn’t grounded in the Judeo-Christian ethic, but in power and steel and blood. And though that atmosphere was so antithetical to its faith and character, the Church thrived and flourished. The Church doesn’t need righteous laws enacted by the State to be what Christ has called us to be – we only need to live in the law of Christ, the law of love.
I’m sure I’ll make some of you upset at me, but I wish all the Christians so passionate about ‘taking our nation back for God’ will realize that the ballot box and godly legislation is not the way to do it. Yes, it’s Good, but it’s not the Best. It’s good to strive for the Good, it’s better to strive for the Best. We’ve heard it often – the Good can be the enemy of the Best. Our nation can have Christians filling every School Board, populating every State House, clogging the Halls of Congress, sitting on the Supreme Court, even serving in the Oval Office – and still be on its way to hell. In my opinion, Christians have an undue affection for the State. We have a husband – Christ, and we have a concubine – the State. Righteous law does not exalt a nation. People obeying righteous law elevates a nation, but only righteousness exalts a nation. Make no mistake, a people obeying righteous law does not convert a nation – only Christ by His Spirit can do this. America has a spiritual problem and a spiritual problem does not have a political solution. Our nation will not be saved by Law – only Grace working through faith can bring forth righteousness.
Let’s rejoice in the imminent reversal of Roe v Wade, but let’s see it as it is. To strike down an immoral, unrighteous law is Good. To enact righteous law is Better. This is as far as the State can go. The Best is left to the Church – to preach the gospel and win people to Jesus Christ and disciple them in Jesus Christ. I think some believers have the idea that our job won’t be done until every unrighteous law is overturned and righteous law is enacted. What a small vision. The Vision of the Church of Jesus Christ isn’t Righteous Law, it’s Righteous People. The vision of the Church of Jesus Christ isn’t the land flooded with Righteous Law. The Vision of the Church is the land flooded with Righteousness due to the Grace of God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ our crucified, resurrected, ascended, enthroned Lord!
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim
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