For many years, I have pondered and taught on the inevitable downward spiral that takes place within a culture that suppresses the truth about God. Romans 1:18-32 tells the story. It is social and spiritual devolution—it’s God giving people what they want. They want a life without Him, and He gives them over to their own desires.
Living in a culture like Romans 1 describes is difficult and painful. The greed, murders, and all kinds of evil wear people down. “Life” becomes increasingly unlivable. People don’t feel safe, loved, or optimistic about future prospects. It can become a grind to just get up out of bed and face each new day. It’s not a pretty picture.
Romans 1:18 says that this downward spiral is the present manifestation of God’s wrath. God is angry at ungodliness and unrighteousness and the effort to avoid and ignore truth.
How are Christians supposed to live in such a place? Let me offer a few suggestions, if I may:
- We are not to become self-righteous, but rather brokenhearted and empathetic. Romans 2 describes the moralist, the one who thinks that because he is able to criticize the sins of Romans 1 he is somehow exempt from judgment himself. We can’t be that guy. We need to follow Jesus, the One who wept over Jerusalem and paid for the sins of the whole world. We need to be like the Father, who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
- We should engage the people living with us in this corrupt society, not withdraw from them. It would be easy, and is no doubt tempting—to isolate, move, disengage and remove ourselves entirely. But that would be a complete failure on our part to obey Jesus’ commands to be salt and light.
- We should see the degradation of the culture as a great opportunity. The light of the gospel shines brightly in the darkness. The opportunity to be healed sounds wonderful in a hospital of sickness.
We really do need to be like Jesus. Jesus came as a missionary to this sin-laden planet. He was sent by His Father. He listened to His Father, He watched His Father, He obeyed His Father, He operated by the power and authority of His Father.
Now He turns to us and says, “As the Father sent Me, even so I send you.”
Therefore, we are sent by Jesus as missionaries. We are to listen to Him, watch Him, obey Him, and operate by His power and authority.
We’re the only hope that’s left. Christ in us is the hope of glory. There is no Plan B.