The Forbes 400 is out, listing the wealthiest Americans in 2023, and unless you’re worth $2.9 billion, you’re not on it. Here’s another reason to feel excluded: according to a recent Barna survey, only a third of young adults are more likely to support a nonprofit organization with Christian values. Nearly the same percentage said having Christian values would make them less interested in supporting a nonprofit.
This after a Texas LGBTQ advocacy group claimed a federal judge cannot be “fair and impartial” because of his Christian beliefs. And 47 percent of adults in an Associated Press survey said liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views on college campuses, while just 20 percent said the same of conservatives.
Yesterday we discussed the urgency of declaring and defending biblical sexual morality, not just because it is biblical but because our Creator’s principles are best for every person he creates. The more our culture rejects biblical beliefs, the more urgently we need to share them. The sicker the patient, the more urgent the treatment.
Here’s the problem: it is human nature when facing opposition and rejection to oppose and reject those we face. The “fight or flight” response is our automatic physiological reaction to events that are perceived as stressful or frightening. Psychologists say this response increases our chances of survival in threatening situations. But it is precisely the wrong way for Christians to respond to our cultural opponents.
And it is precisely the way our spiritual enemy wants us to react to them.
Ronald Reagan had no enemies
When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, knowing that its people would reject him and the city would be destroyed as a consequence, “he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). When Paul addressed the Ephesian elders, he told them that he had served the Lord “with all humility and with tears” (Acts 20:19).
When Nehemiah learned that his hometown of Jerusalem was “broken down” and “its gates [were] destroyed by fire,” here was his response: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:3–4).
Foreseeing the judgment of his nation, Jeremiah wrote: “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me” (Jeremiah 8:18). He added: “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded” (v. 21).
President Ronald Reagan reminded his staff that they did not have political enemies, only opponents. Our true enemy is the one who has deceived our spiritual and cultural opponents (2 Corinthians 4:4) and seeks their death and destruction (John 10:10).
Is your “heart wounded” for them today?
Paul’s pointed question
Our first practical step in responding to our broken culture is to grieve for it, praying for the “gift of tears” so that what breaks our Father’s heart breaks our heart as well.
Our second is to be godly so we can call others to be godly.
Paul asked pointedly: “You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:22). For example, heterosexuals who oppose homosexual sin must not commit heterosexual sin. We need to be the change we wish to see, or our sin normalizes and encourages sin for others: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (v. 24).
Our third step is to build relational bridges of grace. Jesus wants to make us “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), which requires us to go to those we are to “catch” for Christ. What is your strategy for reaching those God has entrusted to your influence? How are you investing your time and compassion? With whom are you sharing God’s love and truth these days?
Our fourth step is to pray for the Spirit to change the hearts of those we know. Human words cannot save human souls. But the Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8), including the lost people you know. For whom are you praying by name?
“This is the identity you have to accept”
St. Augustine testified: “I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God who I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost.”
To share God’s love with those who reject his word, it helps to remember that our personal worth is not determined by their response. Henri Nouwen reminds us: “Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your base identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame.
“You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.”
Where in the world has God sent you today?