The world is not going downhill

October 14, 2010

Christ’s kingdom is in heaven and on earth. Read the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) where Jesus explicitly says “all authority in heaven and *ON EARTH* have been given to me.” Read the last three chapters of Revelation where Heaven and Earth collide….there is no separation but instead the two become one. Read Isaiah 9 where Jesus is said to rule as David’s heir (David ruled on earth) and that “to the increase of his government there will be no end”. Finally, read the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6). In it, Jesus states that as we pray we should pray “Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven”. The kingdom is not of heaven alone but both heaven and earth.

Jesus never eschewed power on earth (John 18:36 is sometimes misconstrued to be saying this but there he simply is saying that his kingdom is not established by worldly power). And the kings of his day understood the danger they were in. Matthew 2:3 states that “When King Herod heard this [of the birth of Jesus] he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” And govenors and caesars tried through the centuries to snuff out the movement.

The names that Jesus used for himself and that the early Christians used were challenges to the earthly kings. The words “Gospel”, “Son of God”, “Savior” and even “Lord” were used by Caesar of the day to describe his own place in the world. Jesus and the Christians used the same language to state that Caesar is not ultimately Lord, Jesus is.

The cross itself was quite political. The cross was the way that Romans showed that Jewish Messiahs were not, in fact, Messiahs at all. It was the chosen way of destroying a movement. For Jesus to take on the cross was to take on Caesar directly. Much of the oppression by Rome in the early centuries had to do with the fact that Christians worshiped a King who was executed by Caesar.

And when the early Christians went into the world and declared Jesus to be Lord (not Caesar) the world did change. The world they stepped into was horrific in almost every way. There were huge percentages more men than women….why? They left the girls out for “exposure” or simply killed. The most popular sport was watching people kill each other (and be eaten by wild animals). There were no hospitals. No orphanages. No public welfare. The laws were terribly unjust. Slavery was ubiquitous. Racism was a given.

But as this small group of followers who worshiped the true Lord and Savior (and did not worship Caesar) grew in faith and numbers. They challenged people to repent of sin and embrace Jesus as Lord. They also challenged Kings to bow before the true king.

And the world changed.

The growing Christian conscience slowed the practice of infanticide and Constantine (the first Christian Emperor) introduced the first laws to restrict it. Christians challenged gladiator games and they ended. Christians introduced hospitals. Christians introduced orphanages. They created welfare systems to care for the poor and destitute. Christian laws created a system in which Kings and peasants were held to the same standards (a first)….what standard? The rule of the King of Kings. It was Christians like William Wilberforce, John Wesley and John Newton that helped end the slave trade. It was Christians like Martin Luther King who challenged the world to be true to scripture and eschew racism.

Worldwide things continue to improve when the gospel goes out. There has never been numerical growth in those who claim Jesus as Lord like there was in the 20th century. Historian Phillip Jenkins argues that we should call it the “Christian Century”. Africa went from 2% Christian to 50% Christian. Much of Southeast Asia is the same story. China now has as many as 100 million Christians (possibly more church going Christians than the US). The only place that saw diminishment was the US and Europe.

Now, if I am right, you would expect what? A rise of evil in the US and Europe and a decrease in evil in the rest of these places. Which is exactly what you see. The horror of the last century in the US and Europe contrasts the progress in places like Africa and Southeast Asia where peace and renewal that has never been seen before is taking root. It took Christianity more than three centuries to completely change the culture of the Roman Empire and it will take time to completely change Africa and Southeast Asia (there is still a lot of killing there of – babies and otherwise) but many changes are already being seen. Read this article to get some insight into Christ’s impact on Africa.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not returning to politics “like a drug addict”. Politics are a fruit of the gospel. Politics are not a causal in societal change. When hearts are renewed by the Holy Spirit politics reflect this conversion. Think about it this way: Can you imagine the indictment that it would be upon the church if 90% of the US was devout evangelicals (or devout Catholics) and yet the unborn were not protected under the law? A fruit of the gospel better be changed politics or I would question the gospel being preached. We are to declare Jesus to be King and to call on people to submit to his laws. Politics will not change the world but a changed world will change its politics.

The fact that Christ is King of this world is why we can declare to Presidents and Kings that they are bound to a higher law. They have no right to abuse the weak. They have no right to kill. To abort. To enslave. Or to tax into poverty. This is why Martin Luther King could stand as a prophet and denounce our racism. Presidents may think they are king but there is only one King (of heaven *and* on earth). Caesar is not Lord…..Christ is.

One final thought. We humans tend to think in very short terms. If something takes a couple decades to change we get apoplectic. It should be noted that the rise of evangelical political engagement started in the late 1970s. Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto (a seminal work in the modern evangelical political engagement) was only published in 1981. That is less than 30 years ago. It took the Christian church 300 years to end infanticide in the Roman Empire. It took 1800 years to end slavery. I think that abortion will end and it will happen much more quickly than 300 years. Remember that with God a day is like a 1000 years.

Take heart. The world is not going downhill.

Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

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3 Responses to “The world is not going downhill”

  1. Beth Battista Says:

    WOW!!!! Thanks for this wonderful article. I really love how you write! You can take a complex issue and make it sound so simple! 🙂

    I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center…for 18 years…and have seen a dramatic change of heart on the issue of abortion. There is still a long way to go, but it is happening with prayer and hard work. There needs to be more work done on the value of adoption, but that is coming along, too.

    Thanks again!

  2. jen smith Says:

    This was a great encouragement to me. Thank you.


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