I am not catholic but the resignation of the pope today got me to thinking. I was reading a commentary on the irony of the pope’s resignation. The irony is that he has been labeled as conservative, or more accurately, a traditionalist. But in resigning, he broke with longstanding tradition in becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.
The rest of the commentary had to do with the church’s resistance to embrace modern ideals. This wasn’t an article that was for or against the idea, just rather a statement of fact.
This brought me to thinking about where the church is headed in the future. Is the death knell being sounded for traditional Christianity? I would emphatically state that the church is not dead nor is it dying. Its influence upon modern culture may be waning however.
In the United States a majority of people still identify themselves as Christian. I’d offer actual numbers but the numbers differ depending on one’s definition of Christianity. And that is the first major problem that we have. While many identify themselves as Christian, many of these same people don’t hold to the traditional ideals of Christianity. So, one must question whether people who call themselves Christians but don’t act like Christians are really Christians.
The so called culture wars have been lost. I am in no way saying that we give up and embrace things that we consider to be sin. But there should also be some recognition of where we stand. Gay marriage has been passed by a majority vote for the first time in the United States. While several states had previously passed laws, it had never been upheld in a statewide vote before.
The issue of abortion has likewise become a losing battle. Once it was a battle cry for Christians to stand against. Now, the same issue has become a rallying cry for the other side as they see the pro-life agenda to be an attack of women’s rights.
So, let’s assume that those two battles that have unfortunately defined conservative Christianity for some time are now lost. Where do we go from here? The answer is that we go back to what we should have been doing all along.
I believe that we have been fighting political battles far too much. And it’s obvious that these battles haven’t gained us much. We have been fighting to change laws rather than change hearts.
There are good reasons to oppose the things that we’ve opposed. I don’t want to self righteously declare that Christians know better than others because that sounds foolish and arrogant. On the other hand though, we do not believe that these are arbitrary rules that we’ve created. Instead, we believe that these rules come from God and that disobeying them will lead to consequences.
I’m not talking about hurricanes striking cities as a result of God’s judgment. Instead, I’m talking about individual consequences. A sinful lifestyle will have bad consequences for the people who lead such lives. And that is where the church needs to stand.
Sin will lead to consequences of sin. As society embraces more sinful lifestyles we will see the fallout from it. Indeed we’re probably already seeing the fallout from it. Rather than offer a lecture and a stern “I told you so” we need to act with love as the father in the story of the prodigal son.
There will be people who discover that the things that are now being accepted in our culture are empty and worthless. And when people are ready to turn from sin, the church needs to be there and it needs to show the fulfilling life that is found in Christ.
This doesn’t happen by the church compromising its values. We must continue to stand for what is right, no matter how unpopular it may be. And eventually some will discover that a life of sin isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When that day comes, we need to accept them with forgiveness and lead them to true repentance.