I am often troubled by the things I see in our culture and churches. This past week seemed especially troubling. It began with a conversation with a friend about my denomination and continued with my witnessing displays of moral decadence in entertainment and public services -much of which was promoted to children and teens. It left me baffled, angry, and weeping.
But what can be done?
When the Church is not complacent or accommodating, concerned Christians often turn to the tools of our culture for solutions: politics, legislation, public protest, debate, and the like. While I do believe these tools are legitimate spheres for Christian action, I do not believe they will truly change the world. I believe most of them have little lasting impact on our culture.
In the book of Hebrews, the author argues that the limitation of the Old Testament Law was that it could only affect that which is outward. It could correctly point out right and wrong and legislate for what is right, but it had no power in itself to transform lives. “The law…can never…make perfect those who draw near” (Heb 10:1 ESV). Something greater was needed.
Jesus Christ is that something greater
The need in our world is that people become different, and Jesus makes that possible. “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). And quoting the prophet Jeremiah, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds” (1:16). What God offers through Jesus Christ is an internal transformation, not simply another set of outward rules.
So how do we change the world, or at least our culture? The answer, I believe, is by bringing individuals into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This includes justification -leading people to faith in Jesus Christ, which cancels “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Col 2:14). But it must also include the saving work of sanctification -so that “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pe 1:15). At its core, changing the world involves the dual work of evangelizing and disciple-making.