Two weekends ago, our church’s men’s retreat examined and discussed one of my favorite scripture passages, 1 Peter 3:15-16: “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have; yet do so with gentleness and respect.” This verse summarizes for me
what evangelism is supposed to look like. Our men covenanted to live so that people in our lives would have a reason to ask us about Jesus and then have an answer for them when they do. It is out of this fundamental concern for
evangelism that I am most troubled by North Carolina’s Amendment 1 initiative. I just can’t see how a legislative initiative to permanently revoke the rights of people whose lifestyle many Christians disapprove of is anything like the model for public witness that Peter gave us. When did legislation replace evangelism as the Christian means of building God’s kingdom?
For the last 30 years, conservative evangelicals have gained a tremendous amount of political power and have defined themselves increasingly according to this political power. To me as an ex-Southern Baptist, the event that has defined this epoch of American Christianity was the fundamentalist takeover and politicization of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979. There have been many other synergies and catalysts over the past 30 years that have resulted in many Christians’ uncritical adoption of worldly political strategy as the means of advancing God’s kingdom in the world.
Jesus’ model for bearing witness was to let the powers of the world persecute and crucify Him so that people whom the world persecutes and crucifies would have a safe body to belong to. He did not seize worldly power so that people who like feeling powerful would gather in giant praise stadiums where they could celebrate their power together. Ancient Christians really were persecuted and they faced their martyrdom with courage and dignity. Christians today complain about their “persecution” unless they’re allowed to persecute others. We are such a farce of what we once were.
The most merciful thing God could do for the health of the evangelical movement would be to crush its political power so that we could return to the Biblically prescribed means of bearing witness to God’s kingdom. I long for the day when people will come to Christianity because they are moved by the beauty of the cross not because they want to be part of a winning political movement. True evangelicals want to win others for Christ above all else. Questions about what is or isn’t sin are best resolved in the context of loving pastoral guidance with those who have decided to be Christian disciples. In any case, I pray that God will use the results of the Amendment 1 vote to help Christians repent of worldly political power and return to Biblical evangelism.