When political issues come up, I often hear fellow Christians say something like, “If we could only get the right person in office, we could turn this whole thing around and back to God.” We unconsciously believe that the political process has the power to change the culture, change people’s hearts, and make the world the way many Christians think it ought to be. But the Bible says the government has political limitations. Its ability solely rests in its power to restrain evil.
God says the foundations of His throne are justice and righteousness. He also says that righteousness exalts people and a nation. The government cannot create righteousness; only individual believers living out their faith in His power make that contribution.
I believe many Christians have unconsciously fallen into thinking moral and cultural change will come through some sort of messiah government group. With this thesis, we have witnessed thirty years of cultural wars, where the Church became a pawn in political power plays (by the left and the right). Each side believing that the “America we want” will be achieved when “we hold the White House, the majority in the Senate and the House, and appoint judges who think like us.” Unfortunately, history has seen both the left and the right achieve the above with little or no change in violence, divorce, crime, poverty, and injustice. The government can’t produce righteousness, but it can and does restrain evil.
Have you heard this before? “You can’t legislate morality.” And if by that, you mean you can’t change people’s hearts to have them do the right thing for the right reason, then I totally agree. Ironically, what laws actually are meant for is legislating morality. It’s morally wrong to drive drunk—it puts you in jail. It is morally wrong to murder someone—it puts you in jail. It is morally wrong to steal or not pay your taxes—you get put in jail.
Those are moral issues. The government can legislate morality with laws that create boundaries to keep you protected. They can’t bring about changes in the human heart. Our hope cannot be placed in candidates or political systems.
I love what Chuck Colson said: “The danger with Christian political movements, per se, is that they tend to make the gospel hostage to particular political agendas. You may wrap the cross in the flag and make God a prop for the state. And this is a grave danger.”
At the core of moral and cultural change is not changed laws, Supreme Court Justice appointments, or referendum victories. It’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that changes you and changes the culture, from the inside out.
Chip Ingram, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: Culture Shock, by Chip Ingram
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Culture Shock, Lesson #1
Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong
How Did We Get into This Mess?
Culture Shock, Lesson #2
Culture Shock, Lesson #3
Culture Shock, Lesson #4
Culture Shock, Lesson #5
Culture Shock, Lesson #6
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.