“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Have we ever seen a time in our country in which God’s children needed to walk more honestly and have felt more like strangers than the time in which we live? We say that the world is getting smaller and faster, and it certainly is from a technological point of view, yet with advantages come also moral responsibilities and failures. These only show that the Scripture is correct in revealing human beings as fallen creatures needing regeneration by the Spirit of God and through His grace.
It is interesting to see an obvious irony in our culture. On the one hand we are as loose in our morals and manners as we have ever been, flaunting profanity, nakedness, lawlessness, rudeness, adultery and fornication of all sorts. Media, in all its forms, seems to have no boundaries and in fact protests loudly when anyone suggests a curb on their so-called liberties. Yet on the other hand, we impose the most ridiculous rules and politically correct limitations on everything from speech to printed T-shirts. One university campus imposed a list of words and phrases that cannot be used on campus, including the word American because it may offend someone who is not from this county. This, of course, while the most vile things go on in the student dorms and frat houses.
We scream for law and order but do so by rioting and destroying our neighbor’s business and property. We say certain lives matter but we sell the body parts of unborn babies for personal profit. We threaten law suits for deflating a football, but release six-time convicted criminals onto the public streets to murder again. We demand that pastors in a certain community turn in their sermons for investigation of terminology, but create sanctuary cities to protect anyone who needs protection for crimes against the state. “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20).
The Christian must live in the world without becoming of the world. Paul warned the Corinthian Christians, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9-10). One day we indeed will go out of the world and dwell in God’s presence where none of these things can abide. But until then we are like Bunyan’s Christian, pilgrims on our way to the Celestial City. We must navigate the path with wisdom and insist to our fellow travelers that we stay in the way that leads to life eternal. When Paul says that we must not “company” with those who practice these things, he used a rather unusual word, sunanamignumi, which means to mix up together, to be intimate with, to share company with. This is a difficult task in an age such as ours.
Paul reminds us that he is not talking about not being in the same life together, or on the same planet because then the only way to fulfill this would be to die and go on to heaven. That will come in God’s own time. The Pilgrim still had to make his Progress. We still have to be neighbors, make commerce with them, travel the same roads and side walks with them. In fact, we have to approach them for the gospel’s sake, trying to win them to Christ so that they will go with us in the way. This takes the mind of Christ in the world in which we live.
We live among atheists
Our country has taught an evolutionary model of origins for a hundred and fifty years. Generations have been inculcated in our schools with a belief that there is no need for a Creator or for God at all. G.K. Chesterton said of his native England a hundred years ago, “Darwinianism was every bit as brazen an atheist assault, in the nineteenth century, as the Bolshevist No-God movement in the twentieth century.”1
The Bible calls such a person a “fool” (Psa. 10:4; 14:1; 53:1) in the sense that he has been fooled into such thinking though he may be a highly intelligent person. It is no wonder that such a person would be “ungodly” (Jude 15). Douglas Groothuis wrote, “When God as the source and center of ultimate meaning, value, and significance, evaporates from the social scene, a bevy of busy idols rushes in to stake out the vacant territory. When the transcendence of God is rejected, the meaning of personhood is annulled; for persons are cut off from the only reference point that explains their origin, nature, purpose, and destiny.”2
When there is no Lawgiver there is no law. If we really don’t have a God against Whom all standards of right and wrong are measured, then every person becomes his/her own final authority in truth and morality. As one writer adds, “Nor can a person be expected to pursue pleasure only so long as it doesn’t hurt others—all grounds for condemning even destructive behavior have themselves been destroyed with the initial assertion that pleasure is the highest good. All moral assertions are relativized and destroyed and life becomes, as Nietzsche said, an aesthetic phenomenon.”3
Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (apologia) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Meekness is not weakness in these matters. Paul wrote, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
We live among murderers
Though the number of abortions per year has decreased from 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.06 million in the last three years, the total number of unborn babies killed since Roe v. Wade in 1973 in the United States is 57,496,000+.4 There is no so-called barbaric nation in history that could boast more killings than this. Hitler and Stalin combined have to take a back seat to America’s intentional homicides. Then very recently we have learned that Planned Parenthood (it should be called Planned Unparenthood) not only is history’s largest killer of babies but carefully harvests the bodies to sell body parts for so-called research. Pharoah and Herod were not so sadistic. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the author of Amazing Grace, John Newton, happened to write, “Unnatural lusts, and the want of natural affection toward their offspring, are abominations not to be found among the brute creation. What shall we say of mothers destroying their children with their own hands, or of the horrid act of self-murder! Men are worse than beasts likewise in their obstinacy; they will not be warned.”5
I am a baby boomer child of the 60s. My high school days (1964-1968) saw the sexual revolution come in like a flood along with its counterparts: drugs, rebellion, and Rock ‘n Roll. Combined with atheism and radical feminism, the hippies would have their immoral cake and eat it too. Nothing would stop them from their sexual desires including killing the human offspring of their fornication. All this took was a little redefinition of when life begins. They argued over various stages of pregnancy, trying to appease their conscience and objecting Christians, until some, even recently, suggested that life doesn’t begin until a mother takes the baby home from the hospital.
The problems with this grew, however. The discovery of DNA revealed that the baby, at the moment of conception, has complete DNA, i.e., complete personhood. Then came Ultra-Sound where the mother and father could see the live baby moving, breathing, smiling, crying. We could watch as the baby was brutally killed and thrown away in the trash. These amazing discoveries have forced us to see that “unborn” babies are fully human beings. In addition the Bible was rediscovered with its statements about the conception of Jesus Christ being the eternal God at His very conception (Luke 1:31-35), and King David admitting that he was a sinner at conception (Psalm 51:5), and Job lamenting that he didn’t die after conception that he might go to heaven before his birth (Job 3:11-17), not to mention the Bible’s strict teaching of the sacredness of life which is made in the image and likeness of God and given as a blessing from Him as Creator (Genesis 1:26; 2:7; Psalm 139:13-16). Yet still today, people will have their sexual sin at all costs, even the cost of a human life.
We live among fornicators
The sexual revolution has made fornication and adultery acceptable, even expected. Hollywood has gone from fairly clean entertainment with good guys and bad guys, to smutty and immoral entertainment with bad guys and worse guys. The music industry is making its fortunes by spewing out perverse lyrics to the shouting applause of its listeners. The pornography underground has come above ground. The ubiquitous internet and online cell phone have made parental policing of this destructive sin almost impossible. College campuses have become drunken co-ed overnights, Spring Break is almost indescribably immoral, and children being born out of wedlock is more common than two-parent homes.
The inevitable outcome of such a culture is homosexuality, the lowest form of fornication. The apostle Paul addressed the epistle of Romans to the church that existed in an empire drenched in homosexuality. Immediately in the first chapter he says that God gives people up to this debasing sin (Rom. 1:24-28). He called it “against nature” (1:26); a change of the “natural use” of the human body (1:26, 27); “unseemly” (1:27); and an “error” that brings about its own judgment (1:28). Both Peter (2 Peter 2:6) and Jude (Jude 7) used the homosexual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as an obvious example of God’s judgment on this grievous sin and a warning to others who would spurn that judgment.
In the United States, however, a nation that boasts that it trusts in God, that swears in its elected officials with one hand on the Bible, has watched those same officials decree that same-sex marriages will be protected by the law of the land. This Biblically described sin is now a hallmark token of America’s boast against God. In the same nation pornography is protected as free speech and nakedness paraded in the streets is protected as an individual right. But when a Christian boy admits his sin and settles it in a Biblical manner, he is labeled for life by this same adulterous society. The Christian must continue to do right and think right. James warns even believers, “Every man is tempted, when his is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:14-16).
I have four more areas of warning but I will shorten them due to the space I have left.
We live among idolaters
Here we may be getting closer to the heart of the problem. D.A. Carson says, “Yet the heart of all this evil is idolatry itself. It is the de-godding of God. It is the creature swinging his puny fist in the face of his Maker and saying, in effect, ‘If you do not see things my way, I’ll make my own gods! I’ll be my own god!’”6 If we are not actually making ourselves into gods, we certainly live around things that we have made into gods. We live in an image-based society rather than a word-based society. Everything we want and desire is placed before us in beautiful picture. We don’t even have to respond for the responses are scripted in for us. Most of the day may be taken up watching a screen of some sort. Not that the screen is the idol, but making a master out of it certainly is.
In America, for many, life is a continual concert. We are wallpapered with noise. Talk radio and conservative television cannot start nor stop without a long and drawn out invasion of contemporary “music.” Any group of sloppily dressed performers, young or old, can perform in the same, tired, old way and the audience, young or old, responds in the same tired old way. We can even call it American Idol and it only encourages rather than discourages us.
We live among thieves
Sadly, the American dream of working hard, paying off your own home, retiring with your needs met, is no longer the American dream. The American dream is now winning a million dollar law suit or the lottery jackpot. If those don’t work, the government will pay you not to work. Of course, all of these come from someone else’s work, not yours. Politics has become a promise of transferring one person’s wealth to another for a vote, taxing those who do work and giving it to those who don’t: legal thievery!
Man was made to work. Adam was placed in a garden, not a shelter. Paul reminded us to “do your own business, and to work with your own hands” (1 Thes. 4:11). Honest laborers are under the same kind of burden that the Jews and Christians were under during the Roman Empire but Paul told them to “Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom” (Rom. 13:7).
We live among the uncivil
I mean by this, we have lost any semblance of manners. We have no self-government nor self-control. Peter Drucker once wrote, “Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction. This is as true for human beings as it is for inanimate objects. Manners enable two people to work together whether they like each other or not. Bright people, especially bright young people, often do not understand this. If analysis shows that someone’s brilliant work fails again and again as soon as cooperation from others is required, it probably indicates a lack of courtesy—that is, a lack of manners.”7 “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
We live among covetous people
Covetousness is itself idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). Paul’s testimony was that he was convinced of sin when he read in the law, “Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). It is the tenth but foundational commandment of the second half. We do not love our neighbor because we are too busy coveting what he has. American thievery begins and ends with covetousness. Our houses are full of junk while we are constantly shopping for more. We are richer than any people in history but complain that we don’t have enough.
And So . . .
The Christian challenge is as great as it has ever been. We must be salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. The Bible was written in and for a time like ours. It was sufficient for them and it will be sufficient for us.
- G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Image Books, 1956) 108.
- Douglas Groothuis, The Soul in Cyberspace (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) 29.
- Michael Aeschliman, The Restitution of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 32.
- National Right To Life: http://www.nrlpac.org/
- John Newton, The Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 108.
- D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 46.
- Peter Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” Harvard Business Review, March/April, 1999.