Archive for March 30, 2009

Making Goodness Fashionable

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“Men of authority and influence may promote good morals. Let them in their several stations encourage virtue . . . let them favor and take part in any plans which may be formed for the advancement of morality.”

– William Wilberforce

I find the more I read Wilberforce, the more I appreciate his practicality. It is true that he was an idealist but he was an idealist who had the ability to wrap his idealism in practical application. This combination is extremely rare and when it is found, it is worthy of note and of emulation.

It was said of Wilberforce that he sought to make goodness fashionable. How did he accomplish this? Wilberforce believed that there were three forces that could be used to influence society in a moral direction. The first and most important force for accomplishing this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even a cursory reading of Wilberforces’ writings demonstrate his belief that only the transforming power of redemption in Jesus Christ could truly transform the heart and life of a man. Second, he believed that the government should enact and enforce laws that encourage people to do good things and punish them for doing bad things. Lastly, Wilberforce believed that people of influence should use a kind of positive peer pressure to make goodness fashionable.

As authentic Christians, we have done a good Job of initiating part of this strategy while virtually ignoring the rest. We have to engage people of all stations with the gospel but not in a pass you by on the street fashion. We have to build relationships with all kinds of people in politics, popular culture, and professional settings so that we way earn the right to be heard (i.e. see this post). We also have to leverage the power of culture. This doesn’t me we should be swept into it but become forces within it. We should create culture through the means of politics, the arts, and sciences. We should do everything with excellence and create a sort of curious saltiness in the mouths of society so that they thirst for truth. This cannot be done by burying our heads in the sand and walling ourselves off from nominal Christians and unbelievers in our community. It is our job to go to them (i.e. “Go ye therefore…).

So what do you think? Are you creating incentives for people to do the right thing? Are you making goodness fashionable?

Something Is Missing Here!

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“By justice a king builds up the land,
but he who exacts gifts tears it down.”

– Proverbs 29:4 (ESV)

There is something missing in our society. For a long time I could not put my finger on it, but I think I have figured it out. We are greatly lacking justice.

When you mention the word justice many people think of old west lawmen with their six-shooters or judges in black robes. While these things are associated with justice, there is an older, more practical use of the term. It comes from 17th and 18th century England and it basically states that justice is giving every man his proper due.

Lets apply this older understanding of justice to some contemporary issues we face and see how we are doing in creating a just society:

  • Life – are we giving the unborn their due right to life?
  • The Poor – are we giving the underprivileged more opportunity they are due to improve their situation or are we just creating more dependency?
  • Crime – are we providing the protection due our citizens or do we let those who commit crimes go unhindered and unpunished?
  • Taxes – are we being taxed a just amount to cover the needful operations of our government and are we getting the due service rendered to us for our taxes?

When we look at our society through that lens, we see that justice is greatly lacking but lets not stop there. How about you and I?

  • Are we rendering due obedience, reverence, and prayer for the government in a lawful manner that is required by God’s word? – Mark 12:17; I Tim. 2:1-3
  • Are we being compassionate and rendering due aid and comfort to those who cross our path who are in need? – I John 3:16-18
  • Are we honest in all of our transactions, giving the proper due to our employers, creditors, customers, and clients? – Eph. 4:27-29

Something is definitely missing here and it is up to you and I to see that it is found and put in its due place. That something is justice.

Is Doing Good For Society Good Enough?

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“For the good of society, the good of society must not be the primary good.”
– John Piper

On the surface this statement would appear to be a tautology. Either the “good of society” is the primary good or it is not. What keeps this statement from being a tautology is Piper’s definition of the word “good”. This is where many people who claim Christianity get a bit mixed up.

In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 19:16-17, a wealthy, young politician came to Jesus asking Him the same question; almost identical to the one in the title of this post. Jesus gave him this reply,

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

If you think that you are even capable of doing any good, think again. There is only one who is good. The one that Jesus is referring to in this passage is Himself. Only God, and Jesus is God (John 1:1), is good and only those who love Him and are empowered by Him can do any good for other people. If this were not true, I could claim that killing unborn children is “good for society” and rush about driving pregnant teenage girls to abortion clinics and feel good about myself for doing it. Some people do this everyday, they are called Planned Parenthood employees.

So, I return to my original question, “Is doing good for society good enough?” The answer has to be unequivocally , “No.” Unless we first enter into a right relationahip with God through His son Jesus and love Him supremely, we cannot do ourselves, or society any authentic good.

Have I Earned The Right To Be Heard?

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There is an old adage that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is true in all facets of life but it is especially true in the realms of politics and faith. No matter how correct or truthful you are, if people don’t see love in your conduct, your speech rings as hollow as a sales pitch. The Apostle Paul put it best in his first letter to Corinth:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing.
                                               – I Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

I think this is why so many people have become disenchanted with the whole electoral process. On the right they see a party that says the right things but its leaders seem not to have any compassion for the poor and needy. On the left they see a party that seems to be compassionate but says and does things that make them very uncomfortable morally.

Whether this caricature is valid is irrelevant. The salient point is that if all we have to offer hurting people are political solutions then we really have nothing to offer them. We earn the right to be heard by serving others and taking care of their needs first and showing them genuine compassion and love. Anyone who is not prepared for this kind of service should do his Church or political party a favor and not seek to be their leader.

Before you go to gain the support of that guy down the street, remember this one question, “Have I earned the right to be heard?”