Ask Father Paul 120209
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are some that I’ve gotten over the years and for this column.
Dear Father Paul: Should Christians be involved in social issues and causes ... including marching in demonstrations and carrying signs? — Greg
Dear Greg: This is a hugely controversial question in the Christian community. On the one hand many Christians look at social injustice issues and say, “As a Christian I can’t remain silent, I’ve got to do something.” So they march, carry signs, put bumper stickers on their cars and send money to the “causes” they support. On the other hand, equally devout Christians take Jesus’ statement in John 18, “... my kingdom is not of this world, ...” to mean that we are in a “spiritual battle” only, so they will not become involved in any “worldly” effort to change society or the culture in which we live. Which is right?
It’s a given that Christians must be good citizens. Romans 13:1 tells us that. Christians are to pay our taxes, serve on juries, serve in the military, obey the law (except those that directly conflict with the revealed Word of God, the Bible), and pray for our leaders.
The life of Jesus himself gives us part of the answer. In spite of the fact that he lived in an unjust, corrupt society with more “wrongs” than we have even today, Jesus never once called for political change, even by peaceful means. He did not try to “capture the culture” or lead a social movement or a revolution. Instead, he came to establish a new, godly spiritual order on earth, not to make the old order more moral through social and governmental reform. He came to change men’s hearts, knowing that any lasting rule of righteousness must begin with men’s hearts being changed first. Then, and only then, would godly and lasting social reform happen.
Having said that, I strongly feel that Christians (when led by their consciences and the Holy Spirit), should, take a stand, yes, even a public stand for godly righteousness. I’m thinking here of issues like the abortion question.
Can Christians then picket, campaign, organize and lobby? Yes, of course ... but we must keep in mind the ultimate and most important goal ... to win a lost and dying world to Christ. Let’s not kid ourselves. Only then will we see real, lasting and godly change.
Dear Father Paul: I’m a nineteen-year-old Christian whose church attendance has (to be honest) become spotty at best. I’ve got so much going on, what with college, and a part-time job, that you just wouldn’t believe it. I still live at home with mom and dad and they are constantly giving me grief over it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy church, but if I could just take the next three years off from going, I know that when I graduate and get my own place I’d start going again.. Can you give me a little ammunition to use for right now? — Bill (not my real name)
Dear Bill: Sorry, you emailed the wrong preacher. There are several really good reasons why I can’t help you with “ammunition.”
First, as a young adult, you are now formulating habits and behaviors that you very likely will carry out for the rest of your life. Habits are very ... very hard to change once established. In short, once you get out of the habit of doing something, even something good, something you enjoy, like going to church, it is extremely difficult to pick it up again at a future date, even if you want to. In short, if you stop going to church now, you likely won’t be going when you are 25, 40 or 60.
Second, going to church, for a true Christian is not optional, it’s a command. If we say that we love Jesus, we will also love “his church.” That means showing up. The early believers set a standard for us to follow ... “they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (holy communion) and to prayer.” The writer of Hebrews tells us also, in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (when we are meeting together) ...” Church is the place where believers are taught the faith until they become “mature” in the faith. It’s the place where we worship God as he commands that we do regularly ... where we encourage one another ... where we give and receive love ... and, where we give and receive kindness and help in time of trouble.
Christians are to live and function as “a body,” and when one part of the body is missing, the body can’t function as intended.
Do you have a question? I will try to answer your question in the paper. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.