Most of us probably sense that something fundamental has shifted in our culture during the past few months. And the presidential election, while not the cause, certainly served to reveal the change. Not only did the majority of Americans vote to reelect a president whose policies have reflected a disregard for the fundamental issues of life, marriage and religious liberty. At least two states voted to redefine the family in a way past generations would have found unthinkable.
Many in conservative circles have openly wondered whether the time may have come for Christians to withdraw from public life, or at least focus inward rather than try to engage a culture increasingly hostile to us and our values.
But others, like Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly, point out that it has always been at times like these that followers of Christ have made the greatest impact. And while Daly hopes the Church will continue to make itself heard on the national scene, he proposes some strategic changes to the way we go about it.
Drawing on the examples of Scripture and history, Daly challenges us to do two things: First, he says, we must ask ourselves whether our faith has become too entangled with the political platform of a national party. Specifically on issues like immigration, might it be time for the Church to leave behind the rhetoric of conservative punditry and become more welcoming?
Also, as past guests have remarked here on "BreakPoint This Week," Christians must refuse the temptation to gauge our effectiveness as ministers of the Gospel and the biblical worldview by which candidates get elected. We should remember, says Daly, that the Church first exploded in a culture and beneath a government which hated Christianity and sought to exterminate Christ's followers.
Second, as Jim believes and contends in his new book, "ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart," the time may have come for us to assume a new posture. For the last few decades, says Daly, the Church has played what he calls the "prophet" role, warning our government and society about the dangers of the direction they have chosen.
This has, of course, been a legitimate role. And while we certainly could have played it more graciously and consistently, the time for warning has passed. The results of our culture's decisions are unfolding before our eyes.
Now, Jim argues, we need to set down our prophet's bull-horn and take up the servant-evangelist's towel. As the redefinition of marriage exacts its toll on the American family, we must stand ready to demonstrate a better way, building strong marriages and raising godly children. As our culture continues to disregard the preciousness of human life, we must display Christ's willingness to love and protect everyone, no matter how rejected or undesirable. And as we begin to feel the sting of persecution from those who seek to constrict our religious freedom, we must show submissive hearts while never disobeying God in favor of man.
This, believes Daly, was the role St. Paul exercised when he contended for the faith before the wicked King Agrippa in Acts 26. It was the role Peter and the Apostles played in Acts 5 when they refused to keep silent. And it was the role Christ exercised when He led the Disciples "across the lake" in Luke 8 into one of the most debauched regions of Galilee, the Gentile Decapolis.
"When you look at Scripture, the New Testament in particular you see Jesus engaging the culture." says Daly. "They called Him 'the friend of sinners.' He went to the tax collector's home for dinner, He allowed prostitutes to hang around. I think there's a lesson for us there about engagement. When Jesus takes the Disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, that was kind of the Vegas of the day. It was the very edge of the Roman Empire, and things went on there that no normal person would want to go see. And so Jesus sets out to go there.
"That's where He throws the demons into the swine out of the man, and the Disciples didn't even want to get out of the boat, because it would make them unclean. 'This is an ungodly place! Why is He taking us here?' When Jesus says, 'Let's go,' they don't want to get out of the boat. They don't even want to say the word 'Decapolis,' because it would make their mouths unclean. They refer to it as 'the place on the other side of the lake.' I find that very interesting, that Jesus is trying to convince His Disciples to engage a rowdy, despite culture. He's willing to engage people to make them aware of the shortcomings of their worldview."
Daly, who has taken criticism lately for working with non-Christians in order to achieve incremental victories in the culture, believes he is following Jesus' example:
"I think this is exactly what the Lord would be doing!" he says. "[Jesus] would say, 'Okay, you want to make abortion rare? How would you do that?"
Achieving our ends in a post-Christian nation will require us to step out of our boats and onto the shore of an unclean culture, argues Daly. And if we, like Jesus and His earliest followers, are willing to do that, the time may come again when Christianity topples a secular empire.
Get your copy of Jim Daly's new book, "ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart." >>CLICK HERE.
Listen to another recent edition of "BreakPoint This Week," in which John Stonestreet interviews Dr. Hunter Baker, Reverend Samuel Rodriguez and Warren Smith on the aftermath of the election, and what it means for Christians in politics. >>CLICK HERE.