I saw a truck the other day that must have had an interesting story. It was seriously rusted. It was “don’t go down a road that is too bumpy or I’ll fall apart” rusty. It looked like it had sat somewhere for a very long time – especially considering that the truck had an actual tree trunk grown around its bumper. Someone literally had to cut this truck out of a tree in order to reclaim it. To tell the truth, if I ran across that truck in the woods, I don’t know that I would have gone through the effort to reclaim it. There are some things that are simply too broken to try to fix.
I’ll be honest – sometimes I feel that way about our country. I look at the gulf that seems to separate conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, and I wonder if there’s any way to fix what is broken, or is it too far gone? The fact of the matter is that Christians may be to blame for some of the breakdowns that we are seeing in our culture. Allow me to explain.
In the last couple of centuries, Christianity has been the dominant force in American culture. As a result, we’ve done our best to make our moral convictions the “law of the land.” This is why we have blue laws still on the books. But in legislating morality, we have not been diligent in turning the corner between the requirement of moral behavior and Christian discipleship. The result is a society that is nominally Christian and a legal code that is divorced from the moral standard that led to its implementation. Bottom line is this: you cannot legislate morality and expect people to be good. Sinful hearts are sinful even if the law says otherwise, and government cannot preach repentance. A moral society is more than just the sum of its laws; the hearts of the citizens must be inclined to the Lord.
In 2 Kings 22-23, we find the story of King Josiah. He was a moral king. He ruled with righteousness and integrity. And he is the KING of moral legislation. He enacted sweeping reforms that required people to worship the LORD exclusively. His reforms make modern blue laws look liberal! The only problem is that as soon as he died in battle, the people returned to their old ways. Bottom line is that the nation experienced moral reform without a change of heart.
Christians today should pay attention to this very important principle. Though we should champion legislation established from a Judeo-Christian ethic, those laws cannot change the nation without a necessary change of heart. Christians are uniquely suited to help with this. That is what the Gospel is all about, after all. The Gospel does what no government ever could; it transforms the hearts of the people.
Christians can look at our culture like that truck stuck in the tree trunk. We can say that the whole thing is too broken to fix, wash our hands of it, and leave it to rot. Or, we can do what the owner of the truck did, carefully reclaim it from the trap, and through the Gospel, see righteousness restored and a nation exalted. I’m not yet convinced that it is too broken to fix, but the clock is certainly ticking!