Monday, January 28, 2008


When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was disappointed at the laxity of the white churches who acted as spectators in that struggle for freedom, he wrote the following from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama. Hearkening back to a time when the church was a powerful force for change, he said,
"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests."1
Dr. King was right. The morally energized, spiritually motivated church in the Bible was viewed as radical and a force to be reckoned with. An example of the influence the Gospel is seen in Acts 17.
5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." (Acts 17:5-7)
The early church did not blend into the culture of the day. The church, with the message of salvation through God's Son, was as unstoppable as the rising sun. The influence of the church was polarizing as the world was confronted with the truth of the Gospel. Some were convinced and some became violent enemies. If the church today is not changing and upsetting the world, then it has lost its way.

Believers may be reluctant to step up and join those who huddle in the lion's den, but they must. Christians need to speak from the rooftops the things they have heard in secret.2 Satan is winning in this world. Over a million babies are slaughtered in the womb. Divorce is rampant. Children are abandoned by their fathers. Parents are not parenting and the children are lawless. Pornography is a national disease that ruins the minds of young boys. And the Gospel is not being preached in most pulpits. The Gospel of Jesus has been replaced with a message of convenience. Preachers are pressured to offend no one. Leaders have heard the cry for ear-pleasing worship and they are giving it.

I have every bit of respect for Dr. Martin Luther King because it was time that America be challenged to leave behind the racial past. However, the difference that I have with that movement is that the church of the first century was about religious rights and not civil rights. That is an important distinction. The first century church's focus was on the worship of God and converting the world to Jesus Christ. That is not to dismiss anyone from the responsibility of speaking up and defending the helpless, but the church must not distort the Gospel of salvation into a gospel of social change.

Who is going to speak up? What is the church of Christ doing today? Are we sitting by on the sidelines saying it is not our business or are we speaking up and proclaiming God's will? Where does the church stand on the things that matter to God?

1. King Letter from Jail
2. Luke 12:3

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