It is as urgent today for the light of faith in Jesus Christ to shine brightly as it has ever been. The people of this generation need His selfless love and holy character to impact their world through the lives and words of those who claim His name. But it seems that, culturally speaking, Christianity is losing more ground every year than it gains.
Newsweek magazine, in a recent article, talks of the rise of “cohabitation” for men and women as an acceptable lifestyle choice across America. “I love her too much to marry her,” said one man of his girlfriend with whom he lives and has multiple children by. Yeah, right. On May 13th, The New York Times printed a story citing the report released by the National Center for Health Statistics on the “Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States”. According to the report, the birthrate “among unmarried women in the 20s and 30s has soared – rising 34 percent since 2002”. Four out of every 10 babies born in the US were to unmarried mothers in 2007, many of which were teenagers (23%).
Of course, such events should be met with the grace and love of Christ and not a harsh stigmatization that leaves the mother and/or child forgotten and forsaken (“hating the sin, but loving the sinner” as some like to quip). While there have always been births outside of marriage, what is tragic today is the “normalcy” that unwed motherhood has achieved.
But not only here is something that should not be normal becoming “normal”. Violence escalates, drug abuse and trafficking are skyrocketing, divorce rates continue to climb, and popular cultural continues its descent into the exploration of brutality and evil through popular entertainment (movies, television, gaming, etc.). Morality, it seems, has no Biblical basis but follows the whim of baser inclinations rationalized by post-modern rhetoric and advocated by misfits whose credentials for speaking on social ills are based on their celebrity status.
Christians are often shamed into silence, accused of “narrow-mindedness” when rejecting homosexuality as a “lifestyle” and hate mongers for clinging to the Biblical model of family as the ideal to which we aspire (e.g., with a married father and mother).
But is it unreasonable to assume that Christianity should uphold Biblical standards for lifestyles, family structure, ethics and social responsibility (from the peaceful support of the rights of the unborn child to the responsible stewardship of God’s creation)? No, not at all.
Unfortunately, as many Christians are wooed away from the conviction that the Bible is as relevant for life today as in any other age, the values that the Scriptures uphold fade into the background of their minds and hearts. As we lose that sense of values, and their resulting convictions, we lose our voice as well and can only lament what appears to be the irreversible spiraling of our culture down the long tube of anarchy, purposelessness, and despair.
The fact remains, however, that God knows what He’s talking about in laying out for us His strategy for living life. Not only that, He has the moral authority to expect us to respond obediently, not in legalistic finger-pointing of which the Church is often accused, but in the first fruits of our choices. In other words, as Christians we should live the way the God tells us to and know that what He has to say about how we are to live life is best for our society, best for our children, and best for us.
So how should Christians respond to the darkness and evil of our world? Should we buy some guns and make some bombs to wage a literal war in our society and take out doctors, politicians, or TV and music stars? No. This is not how Jesus would have us respond. The battlefield begins in the thoughts of Christians and is waged in the declaration of truth. After all, Ephesians 6 tells us to gird ourselves with spiritual weapons, not physical ones.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit (of God) on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:12-18 NIV).
The “day of evil” of verse 13 has come. So put on your armor and stand firm. Take up your spiritual weapons and fight the fight of faith, speaking the truth of God in love (Ephesians 4:15), and “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If we do not start standing firm in our everyday choices right now, then we have no hope to be able to stand firm when the cost of taking a stand becomes painful or frightening. Besides, our children and their children need to see that what we say we value with our mouths is what we truly value in our choices and attitudes.
And, as we cling with an eternal hope to the One Who called us out of our bondage to sin, living our lives as He has called us to, His power and love can flow freely through us. Such power and love can bring life and hope even into the flotsam and jetsam of ruination that our culture is inevitably creating for the countless victims of its lies with whom we live and work everyday.