Like all who are even a little industrious, I wake up and think about what needs to get done that day. People need to be checked on, sermons need writing, property repairs need tending, and bulletins need printing. Being a small church pastor includes the joy of two days never totally being alike and having my fingers in a lot of pies.
But what, really, do I do? I mean, what grand role am I fulfilling? Well, we believe, as Lutherans, that God works through the “Means of Grace”, Word and Sacrament. So, the items on the to-do list are what support the work of the preaching of the Word and the administration of Sacraments. I mean, if that is how God comes to us, reveals Himself to us, offers us comfort and hope, who am I to question that? So maintaining our worship facility, putting time into writing sermons, offering forgiveness on behalf of Christ, helping couples and individuals in their lives of faith…that is what I do.
Yes, but is that all? I mean, what is behind even that? Well, certainly, our eternal lives are behind that. I mean, the purpose of worship and being reconciled to God is, in the end, our eternal destinies.
But while I believe that our work as a Church is primarily the administration of the Means of Grace so we will be reconciled to our Heavenly Father, we have another important task. As Christians, we are to build up the world in which we find ourselves. It should be better with us in it than not.
Christians are in the civilization building business. Yes, in addition to assuring sinners of forgiveness and souls of salvation, we can easily justify a mandate to build a high and even proudly Christian civilization right here and now. That is to say, we can be completely unapologetic in proposing the Christian worldview anywhere and everywhere we can. For when I say “civilization”, I mean a civilization that assumes the truth of Christianity and seeks to implement God’s Law wherever and whenever possible.
“Civilization”, of course, is a valueless word. All of human history is the history of civilizations, each with their own technological, social, and moral hallmarks. If Western Civilization continues it’s course towards a technologically-dependent, Christian-less, pornographic civilization, even that sad result will be called and studied as a “civilization.” No, I am hoping – and working – for something far better.
The Bible supports this because we believe that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life. Those are absolute and exclusive claims. Christ is the only way to reconciliation with God and, therefore, with each other. The truth claims of Christianity and the moral callings of Christianity are non-negotiable. Yes, Christians often find themselves in un-Christian nations surrounded by un-Christian laws. But wherever we can, even if only around the dinner table, we are to aim for the best world we can hope for. And that is a world that seeks obedience to God in our worship, behavior, and even aesthetics. (I.e. turn off the music with potty talk.)
Were I to be king for a day to put some meat these bones, the first thing on my list – for this would apply equally to unbelievers and believers alike – would be using God’s Law as the basis for our own. Crazy, I know, and I certainly understand that much of the Old Testament law has been fulfilled and no longer applies, like the prohibition to eating shellfish. But I am not ashamed of God’s Law and no Christian should be. Far from being a zealot for the “separation of Church and State”, that whole Ten Commandments in or on a courthouse building is sounding pretty good to me these days.
A few other practical applications that I would love to see as law:
- Reinstating the death penalty would reflect God’s revelation that some crimes do, in fact, merit it.
- Kidnapping and rape are crimes that are death penalty offenses in the Bible. Perhaps they should be in our own time and place.
- Harsher sentences for drug crimes. Rather than legalizing drugs, we should be treating them as the scourge on society that they are.
- Making gambling illegal everywhere.
- Making pornography illegal. I do not regard indecency as free speech.
I know, I know, you all think I have become the villain in The Handsmaid’s Tale. I have not seen it or read the book, so maybe you are right. But I do find it disturbing that our trajectory is lurching towards those immoral pursuits rather than than away from them.
Second, as Christians, we should hope that our understanding of morality remains the norm, or becomes the norm again. Certainly the major areas of concern these days are abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and gender confusion. Beyond the legal perils of all three of these issues and the legal jeopardy Christians may soon be in because of our opposition to these deviancies, our hearts and souls should be so influenced by the revelation of God that these would be unthinkable in our land.
It is not “civilized”, in the sense of having aspirational wishes for our culture, to tolerate these derivations of Christian teaching. We should absolutely oppose any normalization of gender fluidity and the transformation of children (and adults) into the opposite gender. We should oppose all human abortion…if we intend to be consistent in our understanding of human value, anyway.
Third, civilizations are built from the bottom up, so we heed Paul’s lovely teaching in Philippians 4:8 (LEB): “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
This is the stuff the West should be built on. To what degree it was before, I could not say. If I idealize our past, I will be reminded of slavery. If I bash it, I will be reminded of the tremendous good the West has done.
But when I think about teaching Sunday School, doing outreach to college students, or raising my own children, when I discourage them from listening to most pop music and encourage them to study their Bible, when I tell them everything that is wrong with Critical Theory and everything that is beautiful in God’s Law, I tell myself that I am playing a small role in building a Christian civilization. I hope I am right.