In Part 1 of Last Days Living we considered if we are indeed living in the “Last Days.” In Part 2 we will look at how Jesus’ Followers ought to live in the days of a world growing increasingly hostile and dark.
Before we consider how to do that today, let’s spend a little time looking at how The Church has done it in the past.
The Early Church
The Church was born into a godless culture. While there were some things to commend in the Greco-Roman society of the First century, its morality most certainly was not. Human life was cheap; perversion was rampant. The Jewish society it originated in was morally superior to the larger Greco-Roman world but murderously hostile toward Jesus’ Followers. Yet the Church thrived and eventually grew to so influence the lands Rome once ruled, it ruled Rome.
Yet neither the New Testament nor the history of the early church commends the kinds of action some Church leaders call for today. Boycotts and public protests are not the mandate Jesus gave His Church. Making disciples is. As the early church was faithful to that, they changed the world.
Nowhere in the New Testament do we find instructions to boycott or stage public protests. Jesus never rallied the disciples to protest the corruption in the temple. While John the Baptist was arrested and executed for criticizing Herod, Jesus did not. Huh, there’s something to think about.
Where in Acts do the Apostles stage an organized protes t of the Sanhedrin for condemning Jesus? Where in the letters of the New Testament do Paul or Peter tell the churches it was part of their program to boycott pagan merchants or start an anti-slavery protest? On the contrary, Romans 14 deals with the thorny issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul knew some of his readers purchased meat from butchers who secured their supplies from pagan temples. The meat they sold had been offered in sacrifice to an idol. Paul never tells them to stop it. He tells them to be careful that their liberty to do so doesn’t become an occasion to offend a sensitive Christian who didn’t share that liberty.
Paul’s bottom line in Romans 14 is the need to exercise caution in judging others in how we go about interacting with a fallen world. We must not put our convictions on this issue on others. That means if you choose to boycott or protest, fine. Don’t label those who don’t as “gutless cowards” as some do today. If you choose not to join a boycott or protest, don’t judge those who do. Let each person be fully persuaded in their own mind how God is directing them – not pressured by others who say there is only one way to go about living in a society that has turned its back on God.
Romans 14:5 says, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Verse 19 follows, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
Boycotts & Protests
I understand the appeal of boycotts and protests. I’ve participated in them in the past. Under certain conditions, I may still. I’ve spent hours on the sidewalk outside an abortion mill, seeking to persuade women entering the clinic not to abort their unborn child. I stood side by side with hundreds of others alongside a roadway with signs in support of a specific piece of legislation. I marched with thousands in Hollywood in protest of gross blasphemy. Years ago, I joined boycotts of companies whose policies promoted evil.
And I have rethought all that in light of what I find in God’s Word and discovered in Church History. Also, using a Biblically-informed pragmatism, what was the real result of all those boycotts and protests we participated in? Was the mandate Jesus gave us advanced, or did it just make us all feel better because we were “doing something” to express our opposition? I realize now frustration drove those boycotts and protests – frustration at watching what was supposed to be a Judeo-Christian Western Civilization turning from its roots to a godless secularism we knew spelled doom. We couldn’t let that happen without saying or doing something. The something we did was protests and boycotts. They accomplished nothing except to make us feel better about ourselves.
I know of no one who was won to faith in Christ by boycotts. No one was persuaded of the Gospel by protests. But a watching world assumed our cause was political rather than moral and spiritual because clever politicians saw in us a force to leverage to their own ends. We foolishly went along with their promises that if we elected them to office, they’d restore the Judeo-Christian heritage. They didn’t. They used us. Sadly, a large swath of Evangelicals continues to dance to the tune of political Pied Pipers.
No, the real result of the boycotts and protests was a large segment of the population rejecting the Gospel because we caused them to regard it as little more than a political platform.
I don’t want to be politically pigeon-holed, so I’ll use an illustration from another field.
Fred and Mark work at the same place. Fred likes classical music. He’s all about Mozart, Bach, and Smetana. Mark is into Country music; Hank Williams and Garth Brooks. Fred is a Christian and finds God glorified in the inspired lines of music he listens to. He’s heard some of the lyrics of country music and takes offense at how immoral they are. At lunch break one day he asks Mark what he’s listening to on his earbuds. Mark tells him it’s Shania Twain. Fred challenges him on how he could listen to such ‘evil’ music. The song Mark’s listening to is innocent. There’s nothing offensive in it, so he writes Fred off as a loon.
This goes on day after day. Fred declares that classical music is good and goldy while country music is wicked, evil, bad. Mark’s heard classical music and doesn’t care for it. But now that Fred claims classical music is morally superior to Country, Mark assumes classical music is a “Christian” thing and becoming a Christian means trading the music he likes for a genre he doesn’t.
I know this illustration is absurd – but it serves the point I’m making. Replace politics for music and you can see what’s happened for an entire segment of the population today.
Mark COULD very well one day learn to appreciate the beauty of music by Beethoven and Mussorgsky. He may even realize that lyrics advocating immorality are out of bounds for his musical diet. But that would only happen if he came to faith in Christ and had his mind renewed by God’s Word and Spirit. He’s not likely to come to faith if Fred’s behavior suggests that BECOMING a Christian in essence is a matter of musical preference.
In the same way, people on the other side of the political divide from what Evangelicals have carved out are NOT going to come to faith in Christ if they think the essence of being a Christian is embracing a set of political positions they find abhorrent. They may one day realign their political views if God’s Spirit changes their heart and His Word renews their mind. But they’ll never come to faith if boycotts and protests reinforce their assumption being a Christian means adopting a set of political views they reject.
A Different Way
Complicating all this is a secular media industry pledged to an anti-God narrative contrary to The Gospel. The media uses every opportunity to portray Christians as advocates of a political agenda that polls now tell us most Americans find repellent. The misrepresentations are legion. Promoting its own agenda and message, mainstream media shines a spotlight on a few radical voices, then suggests thousands of Chistian-minions think the same way. Implied is the message that if they aren’t silenced, our democracy will be turned into a theocratic dictatorship along the lines of The Handmaid’s Tale.
All that is why we must strive for a different way from boycotts and protests. Let’s return to the mandate Jesus gave us and the example of the early Church.
Make disciples. Win the lost to faith in Christ by showing how life in Him IS better; better at home, better at work, better in the marketplace. Once they come to faith, show them how to live a life in love with God.
Keep first things first. Don’t persuade people your political views are better. Persuade them Jesus is better. Once they realize that, politics will take care of themselves.
While I don’t support called-for boycotts anymore, I DO decide who I want my shopping dollars to go to based on what they stand for. I evaluate candidates and propositions from a Biblical worldview. That’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 5 when He said as we follow Him we would be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. It’s about the influence a Christ-infused life has on those around us.
Living in the Last Days
While I hope and pray for one last great revival that transforms the culture and restores the Judeo-Christian roots of Western Civilization that resulted in the greatest liberty and prosperity, for the greatest number of people in all history, I recognize the Bible makes clear there has to be a last revival at some point. After that it’s a very messy end for the world. The question is, is the last revival before or behind us? It is wise to pray for it but prepare as though it is behind us.
Protests and boycotts are a strategy that assumes we can change things for the better by them. Others would say they are right regardless of what they do or don’t accomplish. In light of what we find in the New Testament about living in a fallen world and what the lesson of the Early Church teaches us, a re-evaluation of boycotts and protests seems appropriate.
Methinks prayer would accomplish more of what God wants done.
Lance is the founding and lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard where he has served since 1982. Lance & David Guzik co-pastored the church for six years before David planted a church in a nearby community.
Lance & his wife Lynn were married in 1980 and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Lance loves teaching the Bible, History, and Leadership. He holds Masters-of-Arts in Biblical Studies and Ministry.
Lance serves as a chaplain for both the Oxnard and Port Hueneme Police Departments and enjoys backpacking, wood-working, working out, gardening, home improvement projects, reading, and graphic design.
The popular Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church podcast can be found in both audio and video at the Into His Image website along with a growing inventory of Lances teaching.