Opposing, Loving and PersuadingBy Rob Schwarzwalder Senior Vice-President
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Religion Today on May 29, 2013.
Can Christians actively work to stop the efforts of people supporting a political initiative with which they disagree while simultaneously showing them the love of Christ?
Some Evangelicals, weary of political combat, urge a "let's just love them" approach toward those advocating for public policies clearly at odds with the moral directions of Scripture. They call for acts of personal kindness and self-sacrifice, a sort of "new pietism" that emphasizes private compassion as a comprehensive replacement for social engagement.
Their weariness is augmented and even animated by the accusations of those they oppose, that they are loveless and insensitive, that they objectify political enemies and disparage those who dare to challenge their values or views. Stung by such criticism (some of it occasionally warranted), these good-hearted believers wish to put down the weapons of social combat and extend a hand of welcome and service. The only prophetic witness they provide will be offered in whispered conversation, not public debate.
The band Casting Crowns seems to personify this trend. Casting Crowns is one of the most thoughtful and theologically probing Christian bands of our time, whose music has edified me greatly. In 2003, in their first album, they included a song called "What if His People Prayed," whose opening lines contain these words:
What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more?
More recently, in 2011, Casting Crowns's "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" begins with the following:
Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me.
Let's consider: Do these alternatives, using swords or disregarding them, constitute the binary choice for believing Christians?
First, no Christian should ever dehumanize someone because that person's views are seen as evil. Case in point: Kermit Gosnell, the notorious Philadelphia abortionist whose brutal murders of infants who were born alive after botched attempts to kill them in the womb, did great wrong. He deserves, richly, the three consecutive life sentences he received for his crimes.
Yet we can also hope that as he begins his time in prison, Christians will reach out to him, talking with him humbly but clearly about his need for a Savior and finding ways to show him and his family the love of Christ.
Second, not to stand against a Kermit Gosnell is at least passively to endorse his barbarous acts. His clinic was called, by a prosecutor, "a house of horrors." He killed people, and did so heartlessly.
Such things should not be permitted in a society where human dignity is more than a throwaway phrase. Not to work to stop them, and not to call for the legal prosecution of Gosnell and demand that justice be upheld through his appropriate punishment, is acquiescence to evil and compliance with its exercise.
God does not give Christians the option either to hate people, however onerous their agendas or personally offense they are. Nor does He gives us the option of withdrawing from political and social action because such action is hard, results in our being called names, or brings only partial remedy to myriad problems.
In Jeremiah, the Lord, speaking of political leadership, says:
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy;
Then it was well.
Is not that what it means to know Me?"
Declares the Lord (22:16).
Defending the afflicted and the needy is, according to this passage, part of the essence of knowing God. That means that to know our Redeemer, we must commit ourselves to helping the young mother abandoned by her husband as well as advocating public policies that make "no-fault" divorce more difficult. It means supporting public policies that facilitate adoption even as we give to the local pregnancy care center. It means that if a political adversary is in the hospital, we do what we can for him and his family, just as it means that when he is healthy and out building support for evil, we work to defeat him politically.
Since Christians are called to imitate Him they call Lord (Romans 8:29), is any further exhortation really needed?