I really appreciate these posts for how thoughtfully John engages the question of where do we go from here. If the culture and society increasingly rejects Christianity, in what was once a Christian majority culture, what should our response be? The two main thrusts seem to be either to disengage or to redouble our efforts at a politics centric approach to slow our moral decline.
What John offers is a decidedly third way. What if we were to take as our model, Israel in captivity. Out of the book of Jeremiah the surprising injunction would be:
“seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”
(Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)
It’s as surprising to us as it would have been for those who were in captivity. Judgments had come against the people of God, first to the kingdom of Israel and now to the kingdom of Judah. For their unfaithfulness God had caused them to be kicked out of the land of promise. But just at the moment where you would have expected instructions for isolation, instructions to withdraw and wait, you get part of Israel’s mandate (a people set apart for the good of the nations) told back to them. Seek the good. Seek the welfare of your neighbor. Seek their well being.
Can we hear that cry today? Seek the good of those who don’t know me. Seek the good of the culture. Don’t isolate, don’t condemn, but seek the good of. As John puts it so well, “We cannot see our neighbors as our enemies if we pray for their prosperity and well-being. They may be enemies to God, not because he despises them but because they reject him and his love. But they are not our enemies in any meaningful sense. Even if they were to become our enemies, as some in the state did in modern Germany and Russia we are still called to love them!”
Now that’s a radical third way for the church moving forward.