CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS HAVE WORKED IN the political realm for many years and have seen many successes. God has done many great things. However, there is little evidence that the political action of evangelical Christians in the 1980s has done much to transform the moral character of America or to reform the decadence of our nation. Unless the heart of the nation is changed, we are fighting a losing battle. Kenneth Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today, observed that the moral corruption in the culture actually increased in the 1980s.1
David McKenna in The Coming Great Awakening summarizes: “At first glimpse, most of us would concur: greed dominates the marketplace; sex drives the media; spills pollute the environment; racism is resurgent; economics divide the classes; drugs baffle our police; AIDS arouses our fears; special interest groups run our politics; and crime paralyzes our cities. Perhaps [Chuck] Colson is right when he says in his speeches, ‘We are worshiping at the shrine of our darkest passions.‘2
“To date Christians have been little help in rediscovering the gospel for the management of our household of God-given resources. Meanwhile the poor cry out for a word of hope. Their numbers multiply by the millions. The irony of our affluence shows up in beggars embarrassing us on street corners and sleeping derelicts shaming us in garbage bags over iron gates. Worst of all statistics show a new poor among us, not simple schizophrenics or self-satisfied hobos but children of single-parent families and broken homes, victims of unemployment and ignorance and forgotten members of urban and rural ghettos.“3
Needless to say, many evangelicals were heartsick and bewildered as they recently watched as twenty years of work and the little political progress that has been made to stop abortion was rolled back in one day by the newly elected President. Can conservatives the evangelicals muster enough political force to stop the Homosexual Rights Act?
At this point, the liberals seem to be gaining ground and seem to have torn down the wall which has been holding back the flood of immorality and violence that the conservatives labored so hard to build. Christians have been trying to press the crown rights of Jesus Christ and enforce his moral law to circumvent great judgment from Almighty God. Has the wall that the religious right built done any good? Or have the flood gates been open the whole time pouring out filth and violence?
The Holy War
At times like this the Bible is a very helpful book to sort out the dilemmas of mankind. The following is an account of a very dark time in the nation of Israel vividly describing the moral depravity, the incurred punishments and the deliverances and victories which accompanied repentance:
It was a day of great spiritual darkness for the ancient nation of Israel. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. But perhaps the darkest time was the day that civil war erupted between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. The events that led up to the conflict were very dark and heart wrenching. A Levite’s concubine had played the harlot against him and ran away from him to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. After a period of four months her husband went to her father’s house to try to win her back and to bring her back home. He stayed with her family for several days and finally on the fifth day he bid his father-in-law a fond farewell and began his journey back home with his concubine.
He traveled until sunset, yet refused to stay the night in any city accept one which belonged to the sons of Israel, thinking that he would have safety among his own countrymen. They entered the town of Gibeah which belonged to Benjamin and prepared to spend the night in the town square. An old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening and happened to see the travelers in the open square of the city. The old man invited the party to come to his home to have dinner and to stay for the night.
While they were making merry, certain men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, and pounded on the door. They spoke to the owner of the house and said, “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him.” The old man tried to reason with them, but they refused to listen. He offered to give them his virgin daughter and the traveler’s concubine, thinking that that sin would not be as offensive to God as the sin of homosexuality, but they refused. Finally the traveler sent his concubine out to the men. After they had their pleasure with her all night she crawled to the door early in the morning.
When the traveler opened the door in the morning, he found her dead. The man put her on his donkey and took her home. He then cut her body into twelve pieces and sent it throughout Israel to every tribe. All of Israel were enraged and they said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. We must do something about it.”
Then the nation of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, sent their leaders and 450,000 troops at Mizpah to take counsel together. There the leaders of Israel called the woman’s husband and asked how this wicked deed had happened. After he told them the whole story, the people all arose as one man and said, “Not one of us will go to his tent nor will any of us return to his house until we have purged Israel of this wickedness.”
All the men of Israel were united together against the city. Then messengers were sent to the tribe of Benjamin saying, “Did you know about the terrible thing that was done among you? Give up these evil men from the city of Gibeah so that we can execute them and purge Israel of her evil.” But the people of Benjamin would not listen. They insisted on giving these men refuge. Instead 26,000 men from the other cities of Benjamin joined with the 700 men of Gibeah to help them to defend the city.
The outcome looked easy enough for the tribes of Israel for they had 400,000 men in their army. Before the battle the Israeli army went to Bethel first to ask counsel from God. “Which tribe shall lead us against the men of Benjamin?” the men asked. And the Lord replied, “Judah shall go first.” So the entire army left early the next morning to go to Gibeah. But the men defending the village stormed out and killed 22,000 Israelis that day.
Then the Israeli army wept before the Lord until evening and asked Him, “Shall we fight further against our brother Benjamin?”
And the Lord said, “Yes.” So the men of Israel took courage and went out again the next day to fight at the same place. And that day they lost another 18,000 men, all experienced swordsmen.
Then the entire army went up to Bethel and wept before the Lord and fasted until evening, offering burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. The men of Israel asked the Lord, “Shall we go out again and fight against our brother Benjamin or shall we stop?” And the Lord said, “Go, for tomorrow I will see to it that you defeat the men of Benjamin.”
With the help of God Israel defeated Benjamin. Benjamin lost 25,000 warriors and only 600 men were left who escaped. Then the entire population was destroyed and their cities were destroyed with fire.
The question arises, How could such a good cause which was in line with Mosaic law meet with such initial disaster? The answer to this dilemma can be readily observed if we look closely at Israel’s approach to God in the process of trying to execute justice. Israel went to Benjamin and demanded that the wicked men be handed over for punishment. They had not asked God for any help or guidance. When Benjamin refused the men decided to go out and fight them. Before the battle they decided that they should go to the Lord for a little direction, so they simply asked, “Who shall go out first?”
A New Strategy: Humility
After their first defeat, Israel approached the Lord with a little more humility searching within themselves for the problem. Maybe God was against their crusade and they were not suppose to be conducting this battle after all. They had assumed that this would be the right thing to do. Now they came before the Lord weeping and showed a certain amount of compassion for Benjamin and said, “Should we fight any more against our brother Benjamin.” God replied that their cause was right and that they should go out again.
After the second defeat they realized that something was terribly wrong. This time they went before the Lord with weeping and fasting and in personal repentance, they brought offerings and sacrifices for their own sins. Their abhorrence of the crime committed and their desire to punish the criminals was very proper and in accord with the law of God. Enraged by the wickedness of others, Israel was hasty in their resolve and very self-confident. However a spirit of anger at the sense of injustice could not be the motivation for God’s service. “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). Deep humiliation, mourning and weeping that such wickedness had been wrought in Israel was called for first.
As they went forth to battle under the guilt of their own sins, trusting in their superior numbers and feeling that they were preferred by God over Benjamin, the Israelites met with severe defeat. The Benjaminites were employed by God to first chastise Israel before Israel could execute the vengeance of God upon the Benjaminites for the abomination in their midst. This explains why Israel, with so good a cause met with such disaster. The lesson is clear that there is such a thing as self-righteous and unhallowed zeal in the work of God. Such a thing, no matter how righteous the cause, God will not support. The final judgement upon Benjamin is a lesson to those who patronize and delight in the workers of iniquity who will share their awful doom unless they repent.
We must take a lesson from history and realize that no matter how good and moral our goals may be, we can be on the right side of the great and moral issues of our time, but if we do it in the wrong spirit, we can open the door to a far more devastating evil. The spirit of intolerance and self-righteousness is one of the main footholds the enemy needs to promote his dark strategy. We must be careful that we are not like Israel of old when they came up to stop the evil doers in Benjamin, who had zeal for a right cause, but who were chastised by the Lord because they had the wrong spirit. Could it be that a wrong spirit has crept in and is the source our current defeat. Perhaps God in his mercy, knowing the pitfalls of human zeal is trying to avert a disaster and bring the church to a place of true repentance. We must be careful that we are not trying to take splinters out of the eye of others when we have a board in our own.
If our causes are going down in defeat before our eyes we must realize that there is a probable cause and their is an answer. We find that reason and that answer in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Our nation is not turning from their wicked ways, our land is not being healed. We can only conclude that God’s people are not humbling themselves, are not praying and seeking God’s face and are not turning from their wicked ways. Either that, or God is a liar.
We have heard 2 Chronicles 7:14 continually over the past 12 years – But when will the church obey it? Perhaps it is not the abortionists, the homosexuals or the pornographers that God is calling to repentance at this time. Perhaps God is calling for his own people to repent and turn from their wicked ways. We must come before the Lord for spiritual examination to see if this is not the case. If the church would take this admonition seriously, and would humble itself, God would bring conviction on the whole nation to do the same. If all the energy being spent on political activism were in equal amounts being put into prayer, calling the church to true repentance, and the preaching of the gospel we would see far more accomplished for the kingdom of God.
This is the great spiritual awakening of which we are so desperately in need. McKenna writes, “Awakenings invariably begin in a time of cultural conflict. The symptoms of cultural conflict are threefold: (1) the existing moral consensus breaks down; (2) the traditional authority of established institutions, such as the home, church and school is rejected; and (3) the credibility of legitimate leadership is questioned. In a Great Awakening, the cultural conflict must be moral and the social tension must be disruptive … Until traditional stress-reduction mechanisms fail and people acknowledge that God alone is the answer, there is no awakening.“5
When a true Spiritual Awakening has full sway a transformation of the national character and far reaching social reform will be the ultimate result.We must never forget that the nation of Rome was ultimately overthrown by a church who, although they never held a political office, knew and walked with Jesus Christ. If the church allows the spirit of intolerance, judgmentalism, and self-righteousness to fasten its grip on its heart, its members and leadership will be pushed farther from the heart of God than those who are holding on to wrong doctrines and who are supporting the wrong side of the moral issues. It was this same reason that the Lord warned the Pharisees that the publicans and harlots would enter the Kingdom of God before they would.
Saul of Tarsus had been committed to a cause that he believed was right that he though he was doing for God. But the cause was not motivated by the life of God. When Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he backed off his causes and took time to get to know God. From that point on, he was known as the Apostle Paul. Everything that he did grew out of that relationship with Jesus Christ which had changed his life.
Zeal for a cause can become a place of misplaced passion. Love for God and worship of Him can be displaced by the crusade for a cause. One’s live can be so caught up with passion for a cause that it robs us of our intimacy and love for God, demanding all of our time and attention. Surely there are worthy causes and those who love God hate evil. Their heart goes out to the afflicted. Yet, none of these causes in themselves should call us into action. We know that the Lord himself is more interested in all of these things than we are. However, Jesus himself did not rush out to minister to the world. He had to wait for his divine assignment.
Dudley Hall in Grace Works observes: “Jesus was a full expression of God on the earth. He did not die for a cause, he died for love. When Jesus was praying in the garden, the issue was not the principle for which he was dying, but his relationship with the Father. He died not to prove anything, but to obey His Father’s will.“6
When Jesus was talking to Peter after his resurrection he did not say to him, “Peter, do you see all the starving sheep out there. See how they are languishing and need help. Peter, do you love my sheep?” No, Jesus said, “Peter do you love me?” Three times Jesus asked the question and three times Peter responded, “Yes.” Three times Jesus said in response to Peter’s answer, “Then feed my sheep.” Why? He did not want Peter motivated by the cause of hungry sheep. He wanted Peter committed to Him. Out of Peter’s love and passion for the Savior came a direction for the use of the energy that God would give him.
The great passion that must control our life must be a passion for relationship with God himself. As we are committed to know Him, to love Him, to worship Him, out of that relationship will come the assignments from Him that will enable us to find our proper place of service. And out of our relationship with Him will come the energy we need to complete our assigned tasks.
Hall writes, “Much of the church has been content to settle for a disciplined life and call it holiness. We have assumed that if we use our time wisely, read our Bibles, pray, witness, tithe, and so on, then we are holy. But we can work hard at all those pursuits and still reap nothing but boredom and burnout.
“As a reaction to that kind of spiritual nonproductivity, the word radical has been used to motivate people to get more involved. The word radical, however, creates mental pictures of someone doing something beyond the norm of their behavior. When I think of doing something that I would not ordinarily do out of my innermost being, but something to prove that I am really serious about an issue, I think of it as radical. But divine passion is something quite different from either wearying discipline or wild-eye radicalism. Instead of wearing us out or pumping us up, a passion for God releases energy in our lives.“7
To be true New Testament Christians we must realize that we cannot operate apart from the Father’s commission nor succeed without the Father’s power nor minister without the true love and humility of Christ shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. As Jesus becomes the passion of our life, we will begin to understand God’s calling and commission for our life and we will receive that energizing power that flows from the inner passion we have for Christ. We will become a part of the great redemptive plan of the ages, bringing to pass the goals and purposes of the kingdom of God for all facets of society.
1 David L McKenna, The Coming Great Awakening (Intervarsity Press, Ill., 1990) pp.26-27.
2 Ibid. p.27.
3 Ibid. p.109-110.
4 Ibid. p.96.
5 Ibid. p.44.
6 Dudley Hall, Grace Works (Vine Books, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich.,1992) p.76.
7 Ibid. pp.80-81.
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved