The Gospel-Effect Upon Society

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1–4 (ESV)

I keep hearing that the Church needs to do something to address the social issues of the day, and that this means it needs to do more than simply say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is enough. By this some imply that it isn’t. Social action is the desire, and the timing for that action is now.

But Scripture is clear, we sow what we reap (Job 4:8; Prov 22:8; Hos 8:7; Gal 6:7-8), and America has been sowing some nasty seeds for a long time. Add to this the failure of the American church to faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture and its application to the life of the home and society, and we have a recipe for disaster. The culture has changed and the salt of Christians has in many places lost its saltiness (Matt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lb 14:34). As a result, the Church in general has very little impact upon the culture today. We have traded our inheritance of influence for a bowl of political-alliance stew, as it were. The solution for when you find yourself in a pit is not to dig faster, but to stop digging.

The solution for the Church is not to engage in more social action, but instead to return to her charter: bold, faithful, gospel proclamation.

At the end of Ephesians 5 and following into chapter 6, Paul lays out the way that the Church is to “walk in the Spirit” in practical, everyday terms. The gospel life has an effect upon marriage and addresses the practical life of the wife and the husband. It reaches into the home further and makes clear the way that children are to live and how parents should raise them up. It also speaks about the relationship of servants and masters, who in the time of Paul’s writing, were house-servants. Although this could be applied to the employee/employer relationship today, in Paul’s day he was still addressing issues of life in the households of believers.

In the very next section, Paul then transitions to speaking about spiritual warfare. This isn’t an accident. Paul didn’t just lose interest and abruptly change the subject. He knew, as the Church once knew better, that to engage in spiritual battle begins in our homes and our communities. When we fail to parent as Christians, and we send our children off to school and they absorb the wisdom of the world because of the vacuum we have left in their souls, they will soon enough take on the lies and philosophies of the evil one. And as we forsake our marriage vows and live no different than the pagan world around us, indulging in the lust of the flesh and calling it “entertainment,” we will find our vows are crumbling. And when the love of Christ does not inhabit our homes so that husbands will not lead the family before the throne of grace, and wives will not lovingly follow her husband as he follow Christ, we are sowing seeds of destruction that the enemy will water and tend.

Why are we in such a state in our nation? There are many reason, some of which we cannot influence directly. After all, our God moves the nations by his sovereign hand for his good purposes. But we can be faithful to proclaim the gospel from our churches, into the hearts of God’s people, and repeatedly echo those truths in our homes with love and joy, so that our spouse, our children, our neighbors, and our community smell the fragrance of life lived in Christ. We will be salt and light as we are supposed to be. Salt will have its effect on the spoiling world around us, and the light will shine bright against the darkness.

We don’t need a revolution of society. We need a revolution of our souls. We need revival in our churches and homes. We need to return to the fundamentals.

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