Recognizing the problems facing humanity today, many people actively set out to promote change according to their world view. Many activists are secular, but professing Christians are increasingly becoming involved. Should they?
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The world in which we live is vastly different from that of just a century ago. Many of the conveniences we take for granted were yet in their infancy, or had not even been conceived. The automobile, airplane, telephone and electricity, and the devices it powers, were relatively new inventions not yet completely embraced by the masses, let alone available to them.
Life in the early twentieth century moved at a much simpler, slower pace. There were far fewer demands on a person’s time and attention. There was no evening or world news and no “news flashes” on television—no mass transit or intercontinental supersonic flights transporting people across the globe in a day’s time—no Internet to spread information at lightning speed, making known, almost instantly, events happening a world away—no complex, complicated, interconnected national and international issues with the capacity to affect lives almost instantly.
Rather, the problems faced by individuals and families were centered much more on their immediate surroundings. What was happening faraway stayed faraway, and had little effect on their lives.
However, this is not the case in today’s society. The world has become a complicated, complex place with multiple competing interests and organizations. Life moves at almost breakneck speed, with so much to do and so little time to do it. Millions of cars traverse the highways. Hundreds of airplanes move passengers to all parts of the globe daily. Events taking place halfway around the world are broadcast the same day on the evening news. The World Wide Web enables people everywhere to be instantly informed of the latest developments everywhere. All of this has served to make planet earth a much smaller place.
The book of Daniel speaks of this time: “…the time of the end [when] many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:4). We are living in a time when events unfolding thousands of miles away can affect our lives only a short time later. For example, when war breaks out in a major oil-producing nation, the effects at the gas pumps are often felt the next day.
As modern technological advancements have increased, so have the problems, troubles and worries facing mankind. Although modern conveniences promise mankind more leisure time and a better life, there are ever-increasing problems—poverty, injustice, disease, stress, war, violent crime, pollution, environmental concerns, endangered species, civil unrest, decaying morals, international strife, etc.
In fact, many of the problems humanity now faces are by-products of advancements in technology. For example, who would have imagined that the automobile and its associated manufacturing factories would be a major contributor to air pollution? Who would have foreseen that the need for oil and gasoline to run the internal combustion engine would lead to water or ground pollution? Who could have known that keeping an uninterrupted flow of “black gold” pumping at cheap prices would cause strife between nations? Could any have foreseen huge oil rigs spilling millions of gallons of petroleum products, causing destruction to wildlife and its habitat?
And who could have peered into the future and realized that the advent of electricity would one day bring the dangers of PCBs found in the transformers bringing power to homes? Who could have foreseen the air pollution that has resulted from coal-fired generation plants and the radioactive waste that has been a by-product of nuclear power plants?
Worldwide travel via ocean liners and commercial aircraft has afforded people the opportunity to reach distant places in short spaces of time. These same transportation vehicles bring food and products from distant lands for the consumption and enjoyment of the populace.
Yet, at the same time, they have the potential to spread what would have otherwise been localized diseases, from one part of the world to another in a matter of days, possibly creating a pandemic. Insects infesting cargo in the hold of a plane are easily introduced into a different country where, lacking natural predators, they can cause widespread destruction. The Emerald Ash Borer, introduced to North America from Asia, is now devastating whole ash groves in Michigan and Ohio. It is but one example.
Though the Internet has given people the ability to instantly communicate with others from around the world, it has also been responsible for an explosion in all forms of pornography, contributing to further declining morals, destroyed lives, shattered marriages and broken homes.
The push to acquire the raw materials and other resources needed to sustain and advance modern life, with an ever-increasing population, is taking its toll on society and the environment. Technologically advanced nations grow wealthier, while the “have-not” nations are left behind. The peoples of the poorer countries naturally become resentful and bitter because of the social injustice that they feel has been perpetrated on them. Even within industrialized, technologically advanced nations, the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” widens with the passing of time.
Many from all walks of life recognize that despite endless inventions and technological advancements, or the increase in mankind’s fund of knowledge, the world is still faced with seemingly unending social and environmental problems. They know that something must be done and that someone must do it. Arecent Nobel Peace Prize winner expressed it this way: “Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system” (Associated Press).
Where is the utopian world that so many seek? Can the world become a better place? Can man bring it about? Does he possess the solutions to the myriad of problems he now faces?
Many individuals and organizations see this as possible. The above-mentioned individual went on to say, “We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds, and in the process heal our own—indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder” (Ibid.).
Yet, people have differing visions of what this world should be like. And, whether secular or religious, they go to varying lengths and means to promote their world view.
Some take a passive approach, simply making changes to their own lifestyle—including their buying habits and the organizations they support. Others are more vocal, more active—raising money, organizing events, staging protests and targeting individuals, corporations or institutions.
For some, the protection of the environment is their cause. They envision a pristine world in which there is no air, ground or water pollution. To that end, organizations are formed, and millions of dollars are spent to identify, target and hold responsible, by any means (within or outside the constraints of the law), those who pollute the earth. Governments are lobbied to create agencies to oversee and regulate what can and cannot be released into the air, rivers, lakes and oceans or poured out onto the ground. Treaties between nations are sought to bring a worldwide effort to bear.
Others envision a world in which no trees are ever cut down, no animal habitat is ever destroyed and man no longer encroaches on nature. To bring this about, they even resort to such tactics as living in trees in order to prevent them from being cut down, or destroying multi-million-dollar developments to protect animal habitats.
Some want to make the world a better place by bringing an end to world hunger, the death penalty, animal cruelty, racial injustice, economic injustice and so on. And of those who do, many simply see it as their duty as those, according to one source, “belonging to a larger family of life, with which [they] have shared [their] evolutionary process” (Ibid.).
There is also a growing number who believe they have a higher “sense of duty or calling” to battle national and world troubles. They too see the overwhelming issues facing the inhabitants of earth and want it to be a better place. Believing in a Creator, “Christians” know that this present world’s state of affairs is not what God intended. Motivated by their faith, they feel that they have a right and a responsibility to be involved in the world around them—an involvement including community, social and political action.
These individuals read from the book of Genesis, and understand that “the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (2:15), not to pollute or destroy it. They know that while mankind was given “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26), he was not supposed to wipe them from the face of the earth. Indeed, some want the Christian religion, as an advocate of a “God of love,” to speak loudly and to clearly condemn the abuse of, and cruelty toward, our “fellow creatures.”
Still, while sometimes working toward common goals with “secularists,” professing Christians often find themselves at odds with them, because their world view is different. For professing Christians, the concerns of declining morality, legalized abortion, acceptance and embracing of alternative lifestyles, attacks on traditional Christianity and the traditional family often take center stage—issues for which many “secularists” are often on the opposing side.
Fervently believing that a better, more “godly” world can be accomplished through their individual and combined efforts, many churchgoers are taking a much more active role. Galvanizing through like-minded organizations and using the power of the Internet, Christian activists are determined to change the world. They believe that they possess the cure for a sick and ailing civilization.
Many are concerned by what they see as an effort by some to “[do] everything in [their] power to restrict religious expression, and literally suck God out of every [facet] of public life” (www.geocities.com/stokjok0/). Cited as proof are the following examples: prayer being taken out of public schools; the Ten Commandments ordered taken down from the walls of public buildings or removed from public places along with other Christian religious symbols; the Bible largely banned from schools; and, most recently, what is viewed as an attack on Christmas.
As a result, counter-lawsuits, candlelight vigils and demonstrations are staged in an effort to counter this threat. Or, as a counter-effort, other “non-Christian” religious symbols are targeted. One Christian activist, defending the Ten Commandments monument at the Fargo, North Dakota City Hall, sought the removal of a statue of Themis (a Greek goddess) from the top of the County Courthouse on the grounds that it was also a religious symbol (Grand Forks Herald).
Witnessing the present-day holocaust of abortion moves others to focus on the agencies, professionals and individuals who provide or seek those services. One activist declares, “Christians must be willing to stand up for the 4,000 babies who are aborted daily…abortion will end only when Christians care enough to take a public and vocal stand for the unborn” (www.gatherinhisname.com/briefs/248.html). Believing that the ends justify the means, some have even gone to the extreme of bombing clinics or taking the lives of abortion providers. Jesus Christ said that there would be those who would take the lives of others, thinking that they do God’s service (John 16:2).
Of course, the concerns over alternative lifestyles, moral decay and the attack on the traditional family bring the same efforts and response.
Increasingly, evangelical leaders are urging their followers to become more active in the political system. In this way, they can install “godly” men or women into office and change the moral compass of the nation. They believe that they could then be able to more effectively lobby government bodies to enact or change laws to bring about the return of a “Christian nation.” Indeed, the recent U.S. presidential election was seen by Christian conservatives as a great victory, since they feel they have now installed “God’s man” into office. Many may feel that the tide has finally turned in their favor. (To learn more about what God’s Word says about voting, read our booklet Should Christians Vote?)
Man has tried every conceivable form of government, organization, religion and movement to bring about a utopian world. Yet, that world still eludes him. Far from solving local, national or world troubles, man’s woes only escalate, becoming more complex with each passing year.
As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (10:23). Man, cut off from the true God, simply does not know how to live. He simply does not have the answers to the very problems he has created. He does not know the way that brings true peace, happiness, prosperity, abundance and every good thing. Almost 6,000 years of human history show this to be the case!
But can Christian activists fix the world? Should a Christian try? Just what should a true follower of Jesus Christ do?
When on trial for His life, Jesus spoke these words: “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight…but now is My kingdom not from [here]” (John 18:36). Christ clearly said that His kingdom is not of or derived from this world—and neither are His true servants! Of them, He said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14, 16).
This present evil world belongs to—is owned by—the god of this world, Satan the devil (II Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9; Matt. 4:8-9; Gal. 1:4), and Christ is not trying to fix it. This society, which man has built under the sway of the devil, began long ago in the Garden of Eden. It started when the first humans chose to rebel against their Maker and Supreme Educator and to follow Satan instead.
Today’s world is built on a wrong, faulty foundation. It cannot stand. It cannot be fixed! No amount of activism on anyone’s part can save or change it. Instead, it must be totally torn down and replaced with the coming kingdom—government—of God, which Christ will bring at His Second Coming (Rev. 11:15-18). This is the only solution to all of the problems facing mankind. And it is what Christ alone will do! At that time, He will deal with and judge all of those left alive after the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:22) who damaged the earth (vs. 21-31).
True Christians are called out of this world—out of its ways, organizations, systems, religions, practices and politics, and they do not participate in them (I John 2:15-17; Rev. 18:4). Rather, they are AMBASSADORS for Christ (II Cor. 5:20) and are in training to rule with Him when He returns to the earth (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). As such, they represent (as does Christ) that coming world-ruling government. Ambassadors of that government do not engage or entangle themselves in the affairs of this world. They are lights—shining examples of true Christianity. They live God’s Word and practice it in all areas of their personal lives, following every example of Jesus Christ. Understand. Lights shine, but they do not make noise. A noisy light is one that is about to burn out!
But does this mean that true Christians must turn a blind eye to all the pain and suffering of their fellow man? Do they close their eyes to world troubles and do nothing? Doesn’t serving a God of love and having His love in them mean that they should do something? If so, what?
Yes, the love of God should motivate His true servants to desire to help individuals in need under certain circumstances. Notice Christ’s words: “For you have the poor with you always, and whensoever you will you may do them good” (Mark 14:7). Christ knew that, as long as man would do things his own way, there would always be those in need and that society would always face insoluble problems.
Christians are admonished to “not be weary in well doing…[and] as we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, [but] especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). Christians can do “good unto all men” when there is truly a need, when the opportunity may arise directly in their presence—when your neighbor’s house is on fire. But they also know that their first responsibility is to those of “the household of faith” and their own family (I Tim. 5:8).
If they see “a brother or sister…naked, and destitute of daily food,” Christians cannot simply say to them, “Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled,” and neglect to offer them the things that they need (Jms. 2:15-16). Yet, neither can they support “fix-the-world” programs that are purely the efforts of men in a world cut off from God (Isa. 59:2), and are, at best, comparable to applying band-aids on cancer. They simply will not work!
God’s servants “sigh and cry” (Ezek. 9:4) over what they see happening in the world. They pray fervently, “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10), understanding that it is the only true solution that will last for eternity. They give their time, energy, efforts and contributions in support of the true Work of God that is taking the good news of the coming kingdom of God as a witness to all the world and helping to prepare Spirit-begotten sons of God to qualify for rulership in that kingdom.
You too can support that great Work!
When Christ does return, His true servants will actively take part in the only solution to all of man’s woes. That time is just ahead! (To learn more about this soon-coming, world-ruling government, read our booklet What Is the Kingdom of God?)