Monday, February 3, 2014

Being Salt and Light (Romans 13:1-7) -- excerpts

I've been reading quite a few commentaries and related articles in preparation for teaching Romans 13:1-7. One of them is titled "Being Salt and Light in an Unsavory and Dark Age..." written by Richard Land and Barrett Duke, both of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

This is a lengthy article, and I have only included a selection of excepts for the purposes of challenging our thinking as it pertains to who we live as salt and light in a world and a country that left to its own ends would endorse more and more of its people doing what is right in their own eyes--a slippery slope whose license only restricts those who believe that there truly is a moral law and a moral law Giver.

Christians have chosen to take varying positions on this issue of their faith and politics. Hopefully you will at least find the excerpts challenging as you consider how you walk wisely before God among man. 

"...Where this loss of universal absolutes will lead is anyone's guess, but it is likely that we are witnessing only the first wave of damaging impacts on our culture.

The problem of moral decline is exacerbated in those cultures where the citizenry has the opportunity to choose its leadership, as in the United States. When the people who choose the nation's lawmakers and judges have lost their moral compass, the result is culturally catastrophic. Our founding fathers were acutely aware of this danger. Reflecting on the unprecedented freedoms granted the citizenry by the new Constitution, John Adams insightfully commented, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Adams understood that this noble American experiment in unprecedented liberty would not work unless most of the populace acknowledged a higher power than the state to whom they were responsible and accountable. Otherwise, the unprecedented freedoms granted in the new governmental system by the United States Constitution would gradually decline from liberty to license.

We are experiencing the tragic moral trajectory Adams feared. The populace is rapidly losing its moral bearings and it has either rejected Christianity and its moral norms outright, denied its relevance, or relegated it to the level of a self-help regimen. The religion which dominated in President Adam's time has for too many been replaced by a faith in which man is the chief beneficiary. God is invoked for the benefit of the religious. What He desires of people is secondary at best. For many other Americans, yet further adrift on the seas of moral relativism, a Holy Trinity of narcissism has emerged: "I, Myself, and Me."

For the sake of the nation and its future, Christians must become much more involved in its public life.... Man left to his own devices, spirals downward emotionally, morally, and culturally. The lost human condition is a condition of despair. No one should be surprised about this dark descent. Separated from God, man lives without hope in this world and the world to come. ... The Christian brings a much-needed positive message into these dark surroundings. Christianity does not ignore the world's present realities, but it is keenly aware of a God who can help humans rise above life's despair and infuse hope.

...salt prevents decay. Salted meat, for example, lasts for long periods of time because destructive bacteria cannot survive in that salted medium. Christians act as social preservatives. Christianity brings a set of values into culture that arrest the worst effects of human depravity. Christians living out their values do not eliminate human depravity, but they do help to define and denounce it. Consequently, by their efforts, public policy is more life-affirming.

Christians must enter the public square and bring their biblically-based morality with them. They have the right, and the obligation, to share their faith-informed moral values with the nation and to advocate the adoption of those values through the democratic process. Government is a divinely ordained human institution. Paul made this case effectively in Romans 13:1-7. The governing authorities are ministers of God for good (vv. 3-4). God holds governments accountable for how they govern and the cultures they produce. They are intended by God to punish evil and reward good. When a culture has sunk too far into moral decay, God has been known to bring swift and severe judgment on the people (Genesis 18:1-19:29). But God does not take pleasure in judgment. He prefers for people to turn from sinful behavior (Ezekiel 18:23). It is reasonable to assume that God wants those who know His truth to engage in the process that can help restrain man's immoral inclinations and avoid God's judgment."

Here is the link for the whole article:
While I am personally in significant agreement with the article, this is not a blanket endorsement.

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