Far too often Christians get caught up in their surroundings and assimilate to their culture, being influenced by it instead of being the influencer. We forget that we are strangers and aliens on this earth passing through. We are citizens of an eternal Kingdom of which we are to serve as ambassadors of that Kingdom to those who God has placed us among.
Charles Colson quotes the late theologian Jacques Ellul in God & Government: An Insider’s View of the Boundaries Between Faith & Politics. Ellul summarized the duty of those who are citizens of the Kingdom who make up Christ’s Church:
The Christian who is involved in the material history of this world is involved in it as representing another order, another master (than the “prince of this world”), another claim (than that of the natural heart of man)… Thus he must plunge into the social and political problems in order to have an influence on the world, not in the hope of making it a paradise, but simply in order to make it tolerable – not in order to diminish the opposition between this world and the Kingdom of God, but simply in order to modify the opposition between the disorder of this world and the order of preservation that God wills for it – not in order to “bring in” the Kingdom of God, but in order that the gospel may be proclaimed, that all men may really hear the good news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Ellul’s description of a Christian’s duty really defines the role that Jesus gives us as “the salt of the earth,” (Matthew 5:13). We are to be a preservative. We are to slow the process of decay. We penetrate our culture in order to better proclaim the Gospel, to be the “light of the world,” (Matthew 5:16).
The Church is to have a prophetic role in society. When we fail to do that we lose our impact. So as Christ-followers our role isn’t simply to bide our time. Christians have been given a ministry of reconciliation since those who follow Christ have been reconciled themselves. Paul speaks of this to the Church at Corinth who had forgotten that. Their culture influenced them, rather than vice versa. They lost their prophetic voice and forgotten what their purpose in society was. He writes:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV).
God has entrusted us with this precious message. He has made His followers His representatives on earth. Do you hear the urgency in what Paul writes? “We implore you on behalf of Christ” to be reconciled to God, (2 Corinthians 5:20). In 2 Corinthians 6 he goes on, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” (v.2). Do we live our lives with that type of urgency and purpose?
I struggle with this, do you? It is easy to become lackadaisical in our walk with Christ. It is easy to become comfortable in our Christian “bubble” and subculture that we don’t penetrate society like we should.
But this is what Christ calls us to. We mustn’t shrink back. We can’t pass it off. It is our work to do. Look for a starting point – where in your community can you as Ellul writes, “plunge yourself into the social and political problems” in order to have influence?