By THE VERY REVEREND KEITH ALLEN
Today America is facing serious cultural questions that will shape the course of our nation socially, politically, economically, and spiritually. This is a time when we as a nation should be engaged in rigorous public discourse. However, the public is not focused on serious conversation, but rather is increasingly polarized around ideologies of left or right, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. The rhetoric is often laden with personal attacks and demonization of those on the other side. While quick to label and attack, we are slow to respectfully listen. This milieu tempts many to keep silent and stay securely on the sideline of the discussion.
The battle lines seem clear and the protagonists are known. The talking points are well rehearsed and often repeated. The vitriol for the other side openly displayed. In this increasingly divided, pluralistic and secular society, the one voice most needed and not often heard is that of God. This nation, divided and declining, is not the one envisioned by our founding fathers, nor the one left to us by previous generations.
The expectation for America—by those who came to these shores in search of freedom— was that faith should and would shape our community and guide our course. The government was not to dictate our religion, but it also was not to silence the voice of God in the public square. Our forefathers fought and died to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—those endowed by our Creator. These rights bring with them responsibilities. Therefore, in America, Christians must exercise our freedoms as those responsible to speak into the public discourse a worldview that is rooted and grounded in two key realities: God initiated love and God defined truth.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The love of God for us demonstrates and demands our love of others. Thus, we come with love for all, both left and right, young and old, rich and poor, as those created by God with dignity and purpose. We love them because Christ first loved us. He loved us when we were yet his enemies. So, in Christ we see that love comes before agreement. It values the person before their position.
Christ’s love caused him to come and pitch his tent among this fallen world. He entered into our world and understood our story. Thus, love requires of us a humility toward and proximity to our neighbors. When Christ spoke to a thirsty woman by a well, he was able to tell her about living water. When he spoke to a landowner, he spoke of crops. When he spoke to an artisan, he could share about the potter and the clay. Christ’s message to each person met them where they were and demonstrated his love for them. However, his love did not mean agreement with every opinion or position. True love tells a God-defined truth no matter the cost.
God, in His love for us, also left us with truth—absolute, propositional, and knowable truth. This truth enables us to live life to the full as we order our actions to His will. We know this truth as it is recorded in Scripture and revealed in the Word made flesh—Jesus.
The Bible is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” It is the final authority for the Christian. It reveals God’s holiness and hatred of sin. It shares the good news of God’s sovereign grace. It defines for us the origin and value of life. Scripture tells us how to enjoy the gifts of God and what is an abuse of those gifts. It guides us in how to live out life’s key relationships as husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, friends and neighbors. The Bible gives principles on how to steward resources. In other words, the Bible gives us the truth that must shape how we live in this world in every sphere of life.
However, the voice of God, found in Scripture, seems to be the only voice that is out of bounds in our discussions of current crises that face our nation. Scientists, educators, entertainers, and athletes are all acceptable “experts,” while those who speak the God-defined truth of Scripture, are met with hatred, ridicule, and rejection. Thus, we must do as Peter did facing the court, as we face the court of public opinion—be bold to say: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:20).
The answers to our culture’s deepest problems, healing for our hurts, and the hope for the future will be found as Christians renew our commitment to live the love of God and speak the truth of God. We must not remain silent, but rather know that in speaking the truth we will see the Kingdom come and the Lord Jesus will be glorified. “Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love,” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
The Very Reverend Keith Allen is Rector at Holy Trinity Church in Madison. He serves as Dean of Mid-South Convocation of the Anglican Diocese of the South. www.htacms.org.