Christians can and must make a difference in the culture. But we never impose, we only propose. Here's a point or two of clarification.
"When you talk about Christians restoring the culture," I'm sometimes asked, "do you mean that we should take over the laws and run society? Because, you know, that's been tried before, and it didn't go so well."
I can understand the confusion. One source of the confusion is that there are some Christians who do propose something like this. Some of them are following the theological ideas of R. J. Rushdoony, who is considered to be a founder of what is known as Christian reconstructionism. Others just use language like "taking back America" or "conquering the seven mountains of culture." They seem to imply a sort of Christian takeover of the key segments of culture.
Another source for the confusion is eschatology, or competing visions about the end times. And yet another source would be mainstream media outlets, particularly those on the far left, who are constantly worrying about Christians conspiring to impose a theocracy — typically through a candidate they do not like. (I only wish they had more trouble finding sound bites to support their conspiracy theories).
Like I said, I understand where this confusion comes from. But I'd like to offer what I think Chuck Colson meant when he called for Christians to make a difference in the culture.
The Gospel, as described in the Holy Scriptures, can be said to have four chapters: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. It's easy to get the impression from how Christians talk about the Gospel that it only has two chapters: fall and redemption, or sinner and salvation.
But it's important to include the first and fourth chapters for a number of reasons. Most important because they're there in the Scripture. The Bible begins by describing in great detail what God intended for His creation — for the world He created and for the image bearers He created to take care of it. In fact, it's the brilliance (or to use biblical language, "the very goodness") of God's creation that makes the fall such a tragedy.
God loved His world, and especially His image bearers, so much that He set in place His plan to redeem through His Son what was fallen. That redemption was accomplished when He defeated sin and death and rose from the grave.
But even that isn't the end of the story. In fact, in his sermon in Jerusalem after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches not only that Christ had risen from the dead but that He had ascended to take His seat at God's right hand, who had put everything under His feet. In other words, Christ's resurrection led to Christ's enthronement.
"Ha!" you say. "See — that sounds like you think Christ is King of everything and that we ought to force everyone to think like you do."
Well, yes, Christ is King of everything. But no, Christ's Kingdom advances now not by force, but by love.
Christ's rule will fully be recognized when He, as the apostle John quoted Jesus as saying, "makes all things new."
Jesus will make a new creation, culminating in a new heaven and new earth. That's how the story ends — and it's brilliant. In fact, don't take my word for it, do a study comparing Genesis 1-11 with Revelation 7-21 and read for yourself how the Kingdom is ultimately the restoration of God's creation. It's incredible!
Now what's this have to do with us? Well, we live in this story, and our moment is between redemption and restoration. And Paul describes that in 2 Corinthians 5, that those of us who have been reconciled ought to become those who reconcile. We participate in God's plan.
And we do it like our Savior did, through love, through sacrifice, through making wrongs right, through pointing people to the One who makes them right with their Creator, who is their Creator.
My colleague Warren Cole Smith and I fully lay out this vision, and what it calls us to, in the first part of our book Restoring All Things. And thanks to our publisher, Baker Books, you can get a free downloadable pdf of the introduction and first chapter. Just go to BreakPoint.org/free to request a download.
Originally posted at breakpoint.org.