I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say about the upcoming election, “2016 is our last chance to turn this thing around.” It’s the right instinct, the right sense of urgency, but the wrong focus. In the grand scheme of things, presidential elections just don’t matter that much. Yes, yes, I know: Supreme Court nominations, etc., etc. But in the grand scheme of things, the Supreme Court doesn’t matter that much either.
Take Roe v. Wade. It is true, more than 50 million unborn children have been massacred since 1973, but which is the bigger problem: That millions of mothers chose to kill their unborn children, or that the court let them do it?
We have to get out of the mindset which sleeps through the battle for hearts and minds and then tries to win a last-minute victory in the court system or the Oval Office. Secular liberalism controls education, entertainment, and media, but we imagine we’ll fix things by casting a ballot. Ultimately, the problem isn’t political at all—it’s a matter of cultural decay, because “the salt has lost its taste” (Matt 5:13). If you feel a sense of urgency about the direction of our country (and you should), the ultimate answer is gospel, not politics.
And that should actually be encouraging news. Because, in the end, a Christian’s work is gospel, not politics. When Jesus ascended, he didn’t tell his followers, “Go therefore and make conservatives of all nations.” There is a place for politics in the Christian’s life because we are called to love our neighbor and seek his good, including at the ballot box, but it’s a secondary priority. Our primary priority is always “Seek first the kingdom,” and it’s a truly freeing and delightful feeling when we realize that pursuing God’s kingdom is not only how we honor and obey our Father, but is also the best and most lasting answer to the dismay we feel about the cultural decay around us.
So take your burden about the presidential race and whatever else is worrying you about the state of our nation, and cast it on the Lord. Then get out there and start working on something which can actually make a difference. Here are three related suggestions:
1. Get Yourself and Fellow Believers Into a Gospel-Believing Church
The Bible simply has no concept of a Lone-Ranger Christian. Think of the metaphors the inspired authors of Scripture used: parts of a body, branches on a vine. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We need a local church for teaching and accountability, oversight and shepherding, service and fellowship. I’m a naturally go-it-alone kind of guy, so I spent much of my twenties without a home church, and I suffered spiritually because of it. I prayed and read my Bible and went to church somewhere most Sundays, but I didn’t know what I was missing—advice and discipleship from older, more mature believers; consistent, systematic Bible teaching; deep, meaningful friendship and fellowship; opportunities to pray for and serve with brothers and sisters in the faith; and the simple sense of family connection which made Jesus refer to “Our Father who art in heaven…”
God expects us to grow within and serve out of a local body of believers. If you aren’t part of one, you aren’t as spiritually healthy as you could be and you aren’t doing as much good as you should be. If you are part of one, thank God for them and love and serve them as best you can. And do what you can to gently encourage your fellow believers to join you, at your church or another one. How much do you think it would change our country if everyone who identifies as a Christian was actually an active member of a gospel-teaching, gospel-living body of believers?
2. Make Connections
We are not a connected people. That may seem like an odd thing to say. If we are thinking in terms of wires and screens and messaging apps, we’re more connected than any generation in history. But we’ve never been less rooted in personal relationships and community. It’s been two decades since sociologist Robert Putnam published “Bowling Alone,” and our social connections have only continued to grow fewer and shallower. That presents both a problem and an opportunity. It’s a problem because it’s hard to share the gospel with someone you don’t know. It’s an opportunity because there are many lonely people around you who are eager for someone to look at them, listen to them, and genuinely care about them.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, we should think small. A few meaningful relationships will bear more fruit than a dozen superficial ones. But if you don’t see anyone around you who doesn’t already know the gospel, you need to get creative. Join a community group; find an opportunity to volunteer—anything that gets your light out from under that bushel. And then…
3. Live Your Testimony
Evangelism can be tough in a country where everyone has heard just enough gospel to inoculate them. A single pamphlet or a passing conversation are unlikely to change minds and hearts which are surrounded by the trappings of a post-Christian culture. I’ve been teaching apologetics for a decade, but I always tell my students that the most compelling argument is the one you live.
There is an odd little parenthetical in 1 John which at first seems out of place but which actually says a great deal about how God expects us to evangelize. John writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11-12). Why the seemingly out-of-place observation that no one has seen God? Because John is telling us that the way the world can “see” God is through our love for one another.
You are surrounded by desperately thirsty people and you have a fountain of living water inside you. Let them see it. Let them hear it. In your interactions with your family, in your patience when you’re frustrated, in your kindness when it’s inconvenient, in your faith when the world is spinning out of control. Show them a life shaped by the Holy Spirit and pray that he would open their hearts to want the same.
2016 may or may not be America’s last chance, but it is the last chance for the more than 2.5 million Americans who will die this year. As God’s ambassadors in a dying world, we have a job to do. So let’s save souls. We may accidentally save a country too.