“When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice,” declares Proverbs 29:2; “but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.”
This verse single-handedly undercuts any pietistic notion of evangelism that confines the gospel to merely personal “salvation.” We stand on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to be sure. But, as the Proverb above indicates, our personal salvation is only the first step among many in advancing what Jesus called the “gospel of the kingdom.”
The goal is for righteousness — defined as God’s ethic for living — to infuse the nation, and not just our nation, but all nations, where the earth is “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the seas,” as stated in Habakkuk 2:14.
When God’s statutes become the underpinning by which society operates, so much so that righteous men and women are guiding its affairs, the promise is that the people will celebrate with joy. The opposite is also promised: Reject righteous leadership and national mourning isn’t far behind.
For we who take these covenantal matters seriously, the logical follow-up question is this: How do we persuade our countrymen to choose the first option and refuse the second one?
The answer to the question doesn’t involve politics. Not even close. Sure, as the message of the kingdom advances, politics, like all other civic spheres, will inevitably be affected for good, as it has been throughout history. But politics as the mode for societal change is unscriptural. That’s what totalitarians do — impose their ideologies on the populace by force. It’s what the “social gospel” types likewise demand — compulsory redistribution of wealth and coercive political edicts to usher in their warped vision of “justice.”
Such top-down thinking, which foists the State into the place where only the Sovereign resides, is idolatrous.
Although, if we’re being honest, conservative Christians can get sucked into this “top-down” mindset as well, myopically focused on the next election fight, while leaving no gas in the tank to get to our main destination.
I’ll get to that destination shortly.
Before I do, let me be clear: I’m not advocating that we disengage from politics or cede even more cultural ground than we already have. Far too many Christians have taken that route over the last century and look at the broken place that our country now finds itself in. We are living out option No. 2 in the Proverbs 29:2 equation.
What I’m noting, though, is that it’s easy for those of us who are passionate about faith and politics to fall into the humanist trap that associates politics as society itself rather than a sliver of it. It’s an easy trap to fall into because progressives have politicized practically everything, from Disney vacations to vaccination statuses.
Politics in American life is an all-consuming exercise because that is the feature of progressive governance: control. Politics, however, should not be an all-consuming exercise for the Believer, for that is not how biblically based renewal will happen, be it for the individual, the family, or the civil government.
To the contrary, the advance of God’s kingdom is premised on the strength of God’s Church.
Jesus made this order clear when he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” in Matthew 16:15-18. Peter’s reply — “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” — triggered this prophetic assertion by Jesus: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Gates are designed to keep forces out, and Jesus’ decree here is that the forces of hell will not withstand the offensive from his Church. It gets better. The Church is the conduit to reveal the “manifold wisdom of God”; is described as a “pillar and buttress of the truth”; and is heralded as Christ’s very own “body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
In other words, the Church is at the “center” of God’s redemptive plan, as one theologian remarked. This redemptive plan is why establishing churches is critical, and often why the health of a nation is reflected in the health of the Church.
But how are churches established?
It is on this question that we arrive at our destination.
It’s a given that evangelism, baptism, communion, corporate worship, and sound doctrine are all important factors to the process. Yet there’s one factor that is consistently missed: strong families. Strong families are the backbone of strong churches. Indeed, the Apostle Paul expressly makes this point to Timothy in the “pastorals,” when he instructs his young pupil on who qualifies for church leadership.
On the topic of the “overseer,” Paul writes, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
See that? A person whose family life was in shambles was summarily disqualified from leading what were, at the time, predominantly house churches.
Paul repeats this specific qualification for the office of deacon too — “managing their children and their own households well” — and says that these directives are for Timothy to “know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”
This “household” concept of the Church is why Paul later exhorted Timothy to treat “younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters” — they are all now part of God’s “household.”
As early church father John Chrysostom put it, “a household is a little church” and “a church is a large household.”
Is it any wonder, then, why the biblical model of the family is under such intense attack, from male headship to sexuality? The most direct way of undermining the gospel’s influence in our country is to fracture the families that populate the pews. Destabilize the family, and the Church — lacking its “household” paradigm for expansion — will limp pathetically along, substituting disciple making for cultural accommodation.
Again, no bueno.
One of the biggest fault lines today is over parental rights. This is no accident. Whoever holds primary authority over kids — parents or the state — sits in the driver’s seat in shaping the ethos of a culture. Even President Joe Biden had a temporary moment of lucidity to recognize this point: “They’re all our children…They’re not somebody else’s children. They’re like yours when they are in the classroom,” he told a room full of teachers.
This statement is a reminder of what’s at stake when it comes to education. And as parents, it’s a reminder that it’s our duty to bring up our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
In one sense, that biblical command means teaching our kids to rebuff the “spirit of this age.”
They will worship God and follow His code on biblical sexual ethics, as opposed to succumbing to the prevailing “genderisms” around them. It means teaching them how the Bible defines marriage so that they can spot the counterfeits paraded about as “equality.” It means teaching our daughters to cherish their character over their appearance and teaching our sons to embrace their masculinity, not viewing it as a toxic defect, but as God’s gift to defend the weak. It means teaching them to respect life from the moment of conception and at every stage thereafter. It means teaching them to flee from sin. It means teaching them to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before the Lord, and it means teaching them to define those words — justice, kindness, and humility — according to God’s Word and not according to the Marxist musings of Bernie Sanders.
Yet in another sense, our parental duties are missional.
By shepherding our children to revere God and reject secular man, we are doing our part to help ensure that the Church is both growing and grounded. In fact, this mission is entirely within our purview, and is not dependent on who is elected president or who runs the local schoolboard.
What it requires of us is time, commitment, and conviction.
So why do we fight for the family?
Because it is God’s chosen vehicle to raising righteous men and women and integral to unleashing the power of the gospel in our communities.
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