“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Romans 12:17 (ESV)
I don’t know what side you take on vaccines, masks, BLM, the 2020 election, or any of the other 1,000 hot-button issues facing our nation today. Nor is my goal in this letter to try and convince you of my perspective on any of them. My goal in this letter is to raise your awareness of the intensity of this moment in our culture and issue a warning. But first, a short story.
Last week my family and I were able to get away for some much-needed rest. We spent one of our vacation days at a theme park where we rode a steam locomotive around a mountain. Several times the conductor blew the train’s whistle, warning those who may be crossing the tracks and at one point he actually manipulated the whistle to sing a melody. Quite impressive. I explained to my children that steam locomotives burn coal which heats a boiler full of water. The expansion of the steam pushes pistons connected to wheels. Occasionally, if the boiler fills with too much steam, the whistle is blown to release pressure. If the engineers continued shoveling coal into the furnace and never released steam the pressure would blow sky-high.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Regardless of what side you take on any of the pressing issues of the day, there is no questioning that we’re in a boiler that desperately needs to let off steam. Unfortunately, many in our nation continue to shovel coal into the furnace. Our Department of Justice is suing Idaho because Idahoans don’t want to murder babies while our Congress tries to redefine marriage through legislation. Sadly, one of North Carolina’s Senators has voiced public support for the bill. So, yes, the temperature is rising and if pressure isn’t released, it does feel like something is going to explode.
Christians ought to oppose the moral evils of our day with every fiber of our being. But Scripture doesn’t just teach us to oppose evil, it teaches us how we are to conduct ourselves in that opposition. We are not permitted to repay evil with evil. If the room full of flammable vapors blows, Christians ought not be the ones who struck the match. We are not to fight cultural opposition with a love of violence and cruelty in our hearts. We are not to fight cultural opposition hoping for the condemnation of our enemies. When we are mistreated, we aren’t given a permission slip to return in kind. We are called to anger bounded by righteousness. (Eph. 4:26) We aren’t called to “keep the peace” by being pushovers, but we are called to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9)
Article XV of our church’s statement of faith reads:
All Christians are under an obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends, Christians should be ready to work with all men of goodwill in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
Did you catch that first line? Our church does not hold a neutral position when it comes to the state. Christ has called us to teach the nations obedience. (Matt. 28:18-20) Therefore we do not proclaim a private, individual faith. We long for the day when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. (Rev. 11:15) But that kingdom is not established through unrighteous power. Therefore, in our cultural opposition, we are to conduct ourselves in accordance with God’s law.
THE UNAVOIDABLE ACCUSATION
You are to judge your conduct by the measure of God’s law and within the context of Christ’s church. What do I mean by that? I mean that the societal norms of our culture have been shattered and are no longer reliable. Our collective conscience as a people has been seared. Calling someone to live in accordance with their biology is called erasure while removing healthy sexual organs and changing pronouns is called affirming. Love is hate and hate is love. In this societal context, no faithful Christian will be able to avoid false accusations. Even the Christians who run from direct conflict will be accused of violence if they refuse to affirm the moral insanity of our day. So, Christian, be prepared. The world will speak all manner of evil against you, and you cannot avoid it. (Matt. 5:11-12) But when the surrounding culture is no longer a reliable guide in matters of justice, how can you know you have done what is required of you and avoided evil? You submit yourself to the Word and to the local church. We need God’s law, and we need his people. We need them both to encourage us when we do well and to discipline us when we er. What is the outcome of all of this? Get to church every Sunday. Get your children and grandchildren to church. Confess your sins and receive the pardon that only Christ can provide through his atonement. Walk in his commands and leave the rest to him. All authority belongs to him, and he will have the last say. And while you do all of that: don’t repay evil for evil. When you are reviled, don’t revile in return.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:22