An incredible thing has happened before my very eyes. The devil seems to have multiplied his
efforts both to devalue human life and to destroy that most essential building
block for society, the family. It seemed
incredible just a few years ago to observe how quickly our nation’s leaders and
cultural play-callers had abandoned more biblically-grounded views of marriage
and family. What has surprised me even
more is how in just a few short years since then, the push for tolerance of
wicked relationships has morphed into intolerance for those of us who hold to
the traditional views. Every day, the
news seems to expose the indoctrination of children and young people against
historic viewpoints, individuals being not only rejected but punished for
taking stances on conscience, and urges to prohibit
biblical perspectives on marriage and sexuality as “hate speech.” The rapid rate of change on these issues has
dimmed my expectations for our future.
Indeed, even as I write this, I realize that it is not just the change
in perspective upon the issues, but the changes in how the agendas are
advanced. As Christians and those who
hold traditional views are increasingly bullied and punitively driven from the
public square, the distance toward becoming a fascist country continues to
shrink. We should expect in the future
that our church will be publicly demonized, will face loss of tax exemption and
other traditional societal supports, and will have to deal with legal
challenges that will sap our resources, energies, and motivation. “Do not be surprised,
brothers, that the world hates you.” (I
Lutherans have historically remained somewhat aloof from public issues in this country. This quietness stemmed from our clear understanding of what is most important – the Gospel. In spite of what happens around us, irrespective of the winds of favorability shown by Caesar or the currents of popular culture, the church exists primarily to declare the message of salvation from sin and from this sinful world through the gift of God’s Son: He died for our sins and was raised from the dead to guarantee our future eternal life. Our church’s priority of making first things first is right on target.
At the same time, our church has held a clear and biblical doctrine about public life which it has not always reinforced in its interaction with the world. The Lutheran Doctrine of the two kingdoms gets it right! Look for Hope Lutheran Church, Twin Lakes, to talk about this more in the next couple of years. The two kingdoms doctrine recognizes that God restrains sin by two avenues. In the sphere of the temporal realm, it is through earthly authorities who are charged by Him to govern according to His Laws. In the sphere of the eternal realm, He changes hearts and lives inwardly by the power of the Gospel. Unlike the political engagement done by some of our brothers and sisters in other Christian churches, we recognize that civil society is to be governed by Law, not Gospel. On the other hand, unlike the progressive political movement, we recognize that transformation and utopian visions of the future belong to God working through the Gospel, not by governments or societies or laws. We have a most needed perspective!
Lutherans in America have not blessed our society as much as we might have with stronger public testimony to these truths. One of the great things that has happened recently to correct this deficiency is the establishment of the “Lutheran Center for Religious Freedom.” Dr. Greg Seltz, former speaker on the Lutheran Hour, has accepted the call to serve as the first executive director for the LCRF. You can read more about this at https://www.lcms.org/lutheran-center-for-religious-liberty I think this is a great development and found myself in healthy agreement with Dr. Seltz when I heard him speak last week about his mission.
Let’s take the cue from our Synod and incorporate an increased emphasis upon public theology in the identity of our congregation. This does not mean political involvement, which is the effort to achieve certain outcomes by political means; rather, it entails witnessing for the truth and advocating for biblical perspectives.
Those of you that are familiar with the history of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, know that it had its origins among Lutherans who faced government oppression for their faith by the Prussian Union, so they moved to America because of its religious freedoms. Now as those freedoms are endangered in this country as never before, we of all people ought to speak up. And we never forget that we can do this fearlessly because we know the promises of our Lord – that whether or not this kingdom endures, the eternal Kingdom of Christ will prevail.
Pastor Tim Oswald