Good for Evil
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, Who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And shrewd in their own sight!” The prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 5:20-21)
There continues to be wide-spread intentional confusion over the issue of what is political and what is religious. The increasingly secular narrative of our country pushes that politics relates to public matters and religion relates to very personal matters. It’s appropriate to discuss public matters in public, but we should all keep personal matters personal. This powerfully works to keep all “religious” matters out of the public square, out of conversation at work and school, and generally out of polite social conversation. The problem is that Jesus did not have these same distinctions. Jesus and all His apostles went about constantly and publicly proclaiming and loudly preaching about religious matters in intentionally public places.
The political and moral worlds do not divide along the lines that our culture currently divides them. Jesus was clear that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). However, what things belong to government and what things belong to God? The most basic way to divide these worlds is that what is moral (right and wrong) belongs to God, because moral goodness is defined by God’s character, then revealed to us as human beings. Moral evil is counter to God’s character, is at odds with God’s purposes in the world, and will one day be judged by Him and will not stand. In this vitally important area of discernment, we do not have the right to reverse the moral order. We have no authority to “call evil good and good evil”, yet it happens every day.
Political matters are most purely matters of civil government. These most basically relate to creating an orderly, secure, free, and just society. Political matters relate in part to commerce, national security, transportation, police and fire departments, and a justice system of courts. However, it doesn’t take much thinking to immediately see how these two spheres overlap in an inseparable way. The moral informs the conscience which drives and defines the political. If the moral compass is off because a person lives in rebellion against God, the way they live in the world will reflect this. When millions of people turn away from the revealed moral will of God, it surely will affect the political direction of the entire country.
A few points of clarification on where we find ourselves in the day God has appointed that we live our lives. First, Jesus is abundantly clear that we should not keep secret His teaching, the truth of His resurrection from the dead, or the hope of His salvation and second coming. We are sent to proclaim these things publicly to the nations, just like Jesus did.
Second, Jesus’ message cannot, and should not, be separated from His ethic. It’s a growing position to hear people say they love Jesus but reject His ethic. This means they love the idea of salvation and know they have a soul, but they reject what the Bible says about right and wrong (especially sexual ethics). This will not work.
The Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is not to affirm people in their sin and from there help to improve them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of repentance and faith. The good news stems from the bad news. The bad news is that we are ruined sinners (morally, then physically), beyond all hope of being made right by our own efforts. We are truly under the condemnation of a holy God. The good news is that Jesus was sent as Savior, to bear the just penalty of our sins. He comes not to make us better, but to give us a new nature that loves the things that God loves and desires to put to death evil ways. And this salvation begins now but will extend into eternal life. This is not a private matter, but life altering good news.
However, the narrative of our time is powerful, relentless, and persuasive, especially for our young people. It’s important that we have this conversation with our young people. A new study was released this week further showing the disconnect between younger generations and churches in America. It indicates that more than half of all young adults and teens don’t think that religious institutions care about what matters to them. As the survey unfolds, it becomes clear that the main issue being addressed is distance between generations on sexual ethics (LGBTQ matters).
Language related to LGBTQ people has intentionally and continuously been weaponized over the past decade to reverse the moral order. What used to be clearly understood as sinful sexual behavior, is now loudly celebrated as a right of personal expression. Those that speak against this behavior as morally sinful are said to discriminate, to be full of hate, to be inflicting mental harm, and creating physically unsafe environments. In this area, we have a major issue that has passed from moral to political in the public narrative. This language is winning the day and largely persuading the next generation.
God declares that sexual sin should be stopped, repented of, and can be forgiven in Christ. This is good news! The world today says that every form of sexual expression should be celebrated, indulged in to the fullest, and all who disagree should be loudly condemned. This survey quotes young people saying commonly heard phrases today, “The church doesn’t care about the rights of LGBTQ people. I’m spiritual, but not connected to the church. I want the church to fully embrace them for who they are. The church discriminates against people that are different.” When you go down the line with these statements in a church like ours, it’s important to speak to these comments: Jesus does care about LGBTQ people. Like all other sinners He bore their sins in His own body on the cross, but not so they could abuse that grace and continue in sin (Romans 6).
The Bible has no category for spiritual people that are outside the community of the church. Individual spirituality is not a biblical concept. God, and by extension the church, will never embrace sin as good. To tell someone their sin is good, is to lie to them and say something we do not have authority to say. The church does separate good from evil according to what God has said is good and evil. The church must teach sin and call for repentance, but this is done out of love, not hate. It is the offense of the gospel. Everywhere the gospel is preached, many will not believe and hearing their sin exposed will provoke anger.
In closing, we must not stop declaring what God has said to be evil as evil, and what God has said to be good to be good. We must not be silent in the public square about these things. We must help the younger generations understand why we are saying what we are saying. We must first do the work of evangelists loving the lost, not affirming them in sin, but calling them to the merciful grace of God by repentance and faith. In all this, we live in our community being active salt and light.
Let us preach the Gospel in our time,