Editor’s Note

Journal
12.05.2014

For a complete Table of Contents for this Journal, click here.

*****

By Jonathan Leeman

It’s common to interpret Jesus’ Matthew 5 words about “salt” to refer to the church’s work of cultural preservation. The trouble is, the Sermon on the Mount is not about preserving the old but presenting the new. It characterizes the ethic of a new humanity. That’s why I think Tom Schreiner offers the better interpretation when he says the word “salt” in this context is about the call on churches to be distinct (New Testament Theology).

What good is a church if it loses its distinctness? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

The growing opposition to the Christian faith in Western culture is heart breaking and worth challenging. That said, God has good purposes for letting the nations—even a so-called Christian nation—oppose his people. And one of them is to sharpen the church’s distinctness. He is seeking a bride for his Son, and he means for her to radiate.

The nature of our relationships inside a church should be distinct. Our ways of serving our employers and employees should be distinct. Our treatment of spouses and children should be distinct. Our loves and our laughter should be distinct. Our sexuality and family budgets and vacation plans should be distinct. And the more our culture opposes God and his people, the more the distinctness of our churches should shine. Yes, there should be points of commonality. We never stop being human, and our lives and loves should be deeply humane. But we are the new humanity. Our neighbors should find us both familiar and exotic.

Notice, then, the further a nation moves away from Christian moral assumptions, the more its churches have occasion to radiate the life-changing power of God. Which means, cultural opposition shouldn’t scare us. It sets a backdrop for the display for the glory of God in our lives.

Not only that, our evangelistic power is tied to our distinctness. An old friend of mine known as a Christian who works deep in the heart of British politics recently affirmed gay marriage. He doesn’t know it today, but a couple decades from now he just might look back and see that he lost all his prophetic power on the day he made that affirmation. He blended in. He became indistinct. His salt was no longer salty. Might as well throw it out.

How precious for evangelism’s sake are our doctrines of sin and conversion.

As cultural opposition grows, in short, church leaders must not be all lament. Or all battle-cry. There might be places for both. But pastors must preach hope, recognizing divine purposefulness in that very opposition. God is behind it. We should not presume to know what God is specifically doing through any moment of opposition, but we can assume that all the purposes for his church are love.

The goal of this 9Marks Journal is to help pastors adopt a fuller perspective regarding the growing cultural opposition all around us. How should we think? How should we speak and pray? They might subpoena our sermons or fine our florists. But the game is God’s, and he moves about his opponents like pawns.

*****

For a complete Table of Contents for this Journal, click here.

By:
Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan Leeman is the Editorial Director of 9Marks, and an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Cheverly, Maryland. You can find him on Twitter at @JonathanLeeman.

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