Last week, United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement after the last session. While not unexpected, the announcement still sent concerned groups to quick speculation about the future of their movement and caused the national level of fear to be raised from yellow to orange. Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty generates fear.
With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, immediate talk of his replacement recognized that he maintained an unmatched level of authority in our nation. Therefore, the next person chosen to replaced this long-serving justice has the potential to not merely establish the Supreme Court as conservative or liberal, but will be the key influencer in setting the moral trajectory of our nation (these pints were discussed in part one of this article, which you can read by clicking here). With recent anti-Christian agendas being advanced at the Supreme Court level, Christians find themselves among the concerned citizens asking, “What do we do?”
The easy answer is to act like Christ. The hard answer is to act like Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ engaged the world in a manner that was sufficient enough to accomplish the Lord’s will without distraction from worldly endeavors. As a result, his life was one that balanced submission and opposition, compassion and condemnation, passion and peace, or even mercy and fury. He was often gracious, but when the moment called for it, he could educate listeners, be angry towards transgressors, remain silent at hostility, and always glorifying to God. For Christians, it can be easy to pinpoint moments of Christ’s ministry and claim justification for our own circumstances. For example, some will point to Christ’s anger in the temple and overturning of the tables to justify a person’s own anger. Yet, Christ was calculated, utilizing what was necessary specific to those circumstances. There is an additional calculation in Christ’s consideration though that makes all the difference: his response was always defined by what would ultimately bring the most glory to God. Thus, we can say that Christ employed a level of ‘controlled resistance’ that was defined by God’s calling, not on personal ambitions, social initiatives, and cultural conditions.
While the circumstances of our culture may incite fear, a Christian response is one that initiates Christlikeness (after all by calling ourselves Christians we are claiming to be like Christ). Therefore, we look at four key attributes and their outcomes:
Confidence (Calmness): No Christian response, no Christian life is properly executed without a confidence in God. Confidence produces calmness. Consider Paul when circumstances appeared hopeless (such as his impending death in 2 Timothy or of learning about plots to kill him in Acts 23) Paul remained calm because he was able to proclaim confidence in Christ that was more profound than physical life and death (cf. Philippians 1:19-26). His hope and faith were not dependent upon circumstances, therefore neither was his response.
Humility (Heart): Humility, a missing attribute these days, is one that orients the heart towards God. In doing so, it produces compassion, love, and understanding (without compromising the truth). Without humility, Christlikeness is unattainable.
Perseverance (Proclamation): Additionally, when antagonism and oppression reign, perseverance should be the response. James (1:2-12) and Peter (1 Peter 1:3-7) both write of trials that will come. When they come in the form of Christian oppression, we respond with perseverance because we are confident that God will complete His promise, which is to cause growth in our lives, transforming us into the image of Christ. What happens when transformation takes place? Others see that transformation as a testimony, allowing us to proclaim God’s truth.
Submission (Sanctification): Finally, submission. Scripture is full of individuals who submitted their lives to God (from Abraham to Paul, New Testament to Old Testament). Submission to God is the only submission that matters. There are times, when it is not in contradiction to the Lord’s will, that submission to authorities (like the government) is warranted (cf. Romans 13). Submission is not easy, especially when we do not agree, yet through that submission, God causes a sanctification in our lives (because it demonstrates humility, teachableness, and willingness to be transformed.
A page by page study in the Bible would certainly reveal many more attributes that Christians should clothe themselves in. These four find particular importance when we discuss how to respond in light of any cultural crises that may be present.
Without these key characteristics, any response we have will be viewed as unreasonable, irrational, unstable, and emotional. This is because it without confidence we will respond with emotions, without humility we will respond without compassion, with perseverance we will be malleable to the cultural position, and without submission, we will simply be considered defiant.
While some may worry that such a response will result in compromise, that is a false dichotomy. Instead, we show truth through our Christlikeness. Therefore, when we look at the prideful division and personal agendas of our culture, we do not run away in fear but run towards it with the truth. We can do this because we can trust that God is at work and that ultimately man will be humiliated by his own endeavors. Yet, man’s humiliation will ultimately result in God’s glorification.
Photo “On the Hill” courtesy of user Eric B. Walker and Flickr.