Do you ever find yourself doubting your contribution to the world as a Christian? Sometimes we look at our place in society and wonder just how much good we are doing – most churches of Christ are relatively small, we are considered “fringe” by the religious world, and most unbelievers refuse to repent when confronted by our message. To some of us, it may seem like there just is not room in this postmodern, atheistic, subjectively judged culture. Lest we give up hope, we may need reminding of just how valuable we are to the world. The Christian’s contribution, though seemingly miniscule, is more appreciated by our unbelieving acquaintances than we realize. And even if our hard work is never specifically recognized, our neighbors enjoy the benefits of our presence and devotion to God. Consider just a few of the cases where the supposedly unappreciated work of a believer could have (or did, in some cases) brought about great benefits to the rest of his contemporaries:
· Remember in Genesis 18:32 that God would have spared the city of Sodom on behalf of only ten righteous citizens. Even if the city would be considered small by our standards, we are still only looking at a miniscule percentage of the population.
· Jonah’s work was tireless – how would we feel about being the only righteous person in a city of several hundred thousand, tasked with the impossible job of preaching to them all? Yet his influence changed the capital city of the most powerful empire in the world.
· Because of the lasting memory of the faithfulness of David, the Lord showed mercy in judgment to Solomon (1 Kings 11:11-13).
· Throughout the Old Testament, God delays wrath or shows undue mercy because of the “remnant” of faithful ones in Judah and Israel.
Not only that, but we need not underestimate our influence in this world. From the outside, things may seem hopeless, but there will always be a quiet appreciation by unbelievers for the Christian. It may not be expressed in ways we recognize, but our contribution to society does not go unnoticed. Notice that the first Christians in Jerusalem, though buffeted by the Pharisees and ridiculed by the council, still managed to make quite an impact on their contemporaries. “…Praising God, and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). All of the people around them, though unconvinced by the message of the Gospel, nevertheless recognized the admirable qualities of the church. “But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, all the people held them in high esteem” (Acts 5:13). Your influence may never produce visible results in the people around you, but at the very least, most unbelievers will admire you for your morals, high standards, good family dynamic, and your righteous participation in the community or neighborhood. We are valuable, friends! Many may never know it, but it is entirely likely that the presence of strong Christians in our land may be the only thing stopping God from bringing judgment upon our country for its indulgence in immorality.
The Blessing of the Upright
Even if our world does not like people with morals, it does (grudgingly) appreciate them. Christians may seem boring, prudish, nagging, and stiff, but our attitudes make us valuable to society.
· Christians who are indeed like Christ make the best employees (Colossians 3:22-24, Ephesians 6:5-8). Bosses appreciate their Christian employees because they are dependable, honest, and will give their best effort in everything they do. We may not make a splash at an inappropriate office party, or have a reputation for rude jokes about the boss, but we work hard.
· Christians make great neighbors. We are kind, giving (Galatians 6:10), responsible, and respectable. Our unbelieving neighbors will not go to us for a beer, but they will trust us with watching their house, babysitting, or marital advice.
· Christians at school make great students. Christian teenagers are supposed to be respectful, decent, orderly, and willing to quietly receive instruction.
· Christians make marvelous politicians, school board members, advocacy group leaders, and others things similar.
“When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is glad shouting; by the blessing of the upright a city is exalted” (Proverbs 11:10-11). “When it goes well with the righteous…” There is no doubt that this is still true today. Even unbelievers rejoice when they hear of a “good” person getting rewarded for his righteous deeds. Our culture loves movies and stories in which the good guy lives happily ever after and the villain is punished. Emotion is added to a positive news story when the reporter adds that the subject of the piece is happily married, goes to church, and does volunteer work. On the other hand, in general, wicked people do not like others who are similar to them. They cannot trust each other. When evil men perish, there is almost always resounding approval from even other criminals. For example, in prisons there is a definite hierarchy of crimes from bad to worst. Even the thieves and murderers rejoice when a child molester is punished severely. Even though it might seem like Christians are ignored by the world, our presence is greatly appreciate – your neighbors are happy that you live where you do!
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). This verse clearly applies to all people for all time, not just Old Testament Israel. Even in a nation as secular as ours, righteous decisions are an obvious boon to society. Any culture will suffer as a result of villainous or unrighteous decisions, just as any culture devoted to morality and Godly ethics will be blessed. As much as we want to maintain the illusion of “separation of church and state”, there is no separating the need for our country to uphold absolute truth with regard to morality, purity, and ethics. It is a grave mistake to do otherwise, and we should never feel ashamed for voting for a politician or a ballot measure that propagates righteousness.
Flourishing Under Righteousness
Not much has changed since the time of the Old Testament kingdoms. God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it” (Jeremiah 18:7-10). The Lord may not work in the same manner as He did in the stories of Israel, Judah, Assyria, and Babylon, but His power is still the same. If He so decides that a nation is unworthy of peace and safety, He has the power and the right to judge it as He desires. The lesson for us is to put up a fight as the righteous remnant. There is no nation that will flourish without the mercy and blessing of God – therefore it is foolish to think that abandoning Him and the Bible is the way to make our nation better.
Would you rather have tyranny?
One of the other things we need to remember is that for as much as unbelievers balk about “religious” or “moral” politicians, they truly would not want the alternative. “When the righteous triumph, there is great glory; but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves” (Proverbs 28:12). Christians are appreciated unwittingly every day for their righteous political stands, because without them only injustice would reign supreme. Even though we do not always realize it, we should consider ourselves extremely fortunate when moral people flourish and prosper as administrators. Honest leaders make a government stable, and far too many people in our world suffer greatly under the iron curtain of evil men. Some in our postmodern world complain often about how “religious crazies” have taken control of the government, and they would rather have atheists run our land. According to a poll done by the University of Connecticut, 68 percent of respondents stated that they do not like it when politicians rely on religious beliefs to make public policy decisions (www.atheistnation.net). Even among those who consider religion “extremely important”, 51 percent said that religion should play no part in politics. But what is the alternative? The most atheistic countries in the history of mankind have turned out to be the most brutally tyrannical. The Soviet Union, China, the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, North Korea, and many others that espouse atheism have turned out to be disturbingly cruel to humanity. Just as Proverbs 29:12 says, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” When the righteous people of the world decrease, only wicked men replace them, and eventually only fear reigns:
· When righteous people decrease, freedom of speech is lost, not gained;
· Fewer people will stand up for what is right when there is a risk;
· Fewer people will get involved in noble causes;
· People do not venture into certain parts of town, out of fear for the wicked;
· People go into hiding.
· The core problem with an atheistic political system is that it places no spiritual value on humanity. If there is no God, and we do not have souls, then this is a dog-eat-dog world, and the powerful will always abuse their position. Christian political leaders, though opposed to sin, are very much in favor of valuing humanity.
Making A Difference In The World
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Our self-perception is so important to how we will affect the world. If we do not see ourselves of valuable then we probably will not be – unbelievers will see our negative attitudes and perceive it as weakness. But if we see ourselves the way God wants us to, then we will realize just how important Christianity is to the spiritual survival of the world. We are lights, even in the midst of great darkness, even when no other light can be found. Our very presence does make a difference:
· My presence assures others that it is all right to pursue spiritual things (Matthew 6:33). I can be a reminder to people that there is a spiritual side of life that needs feeding.
· My example as a parent can help others along the path of proper discipline in the home. Seeing me punish my children in righteousness can reaffirm in people’s minds that it actually works (Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 22:6).
· The example of a Christian wife reveals the immense beauty in “submission”. Our culture places such a premium on money, independence, and outward beauty (Proverbs 31:30), that you are really a unique breath of fresh air when you act the way a godly woman ought to.
· Our young people can be lights, as well, when they buck trends and live godly, respectful, discipline lives.
· The Christian has a very “revealing” effect on the world. His or her influence (the “light”) reveals what is normal and right for humanity. Christianity is the ideal when it comes to marriage, family, government, work, pleasure, human relationships, and morality.