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family values, morals, government, religious freedom, christians, texas association of school boards, tasb, education, influence

We Are Not Alone:
The Christian's Impact on Government and Society

By Stephen B. Springer

 
family values, morals, government, religious freedom, christians, texas association of school boards, tasb, education, influence

After seeing both the local and national news each day and seeing the disintegration of our tried and true values, it is easy to retreat into spiritual and physical solitude. At times we may ponder if we are the only individuals concerned about family issues, maintaining values, and holding on to our country's religious freedoms.

This sinking feeling must be similar, albeit much less intense, to that Elijah felt in 1 Kings 19 when he lamented about being jealous for Jehovah and indicating that he was the only faithful one left (v. 10, 14). We may feel that our family and individuals in the local congregation are indeed the last survivors of our generation. Yet, let us examine the implication that a few might have on our government and see if a little leaven can leaven the whole loaf.

As we know, for a number of years prayer was banned in the public schools under the banner that it might infringe on someone's rights or perhaps influence an individual to be religious. It is interesting that even in the last five years some universities have removed the invocation from their graduation ceremonies. However, others still hold dearly to the right and even various high schools practice pre-game prayers for safety of the players.

Christians may wonder why some organizations may practice prayer or a moment of silence and others do not. Let us set the record straightówithout the undying efforts of many, even the opportunity for these times of silent meditation would be in jeopardy. Yet, the opportunity is still there for the Christian to continue to influence morality in this nation. Christ aptly points out that we are the light of the world and we must not put the light under a bushel, but on a stand (Matt. 5:14-15). How can we exert this influence and remain a Christian?

Several years ago at the Texas Association of School Boards conference, where school trustees from all over Texas meet to consider recommendations for the organization to support in the legislative session, a resolution was introduced that recommended the TASB support student-initiated and student-sponsored prayer at school events as well as efforts by districts to provide moments of silence at school events. Initially the TASB board of trustees prior to the conference did not support the measure; yet, during the conference the measure was raised in open session and the membership endorsed it.

Ever since that date the measure has passed by a wide margin in open assembly and we are now seeing the fruits of the labor. Some districts are presently passing policies regarding a moment of silence following the pledge of allegiance. Moreover, the U.S. education secretary produced a series of principles approved by the attorney general which provides much more latitude for students to exercise their religious beliefs. This includes the allowance for students to express their beliefs as part of art work, homework, or oral assignments. Schools are also allowed to teach civic values and virtue. Furthermore, even though these values are believed by Christians, this does not make it unlawful to be a part of the school lessons. There are many more implications. Certainly, this does not mean the issue has been won ó it means we are not alone. The values of this nation have not been lost yet.

Because there are some in government and elsewhere attempting to influence this country toward God, what can we do to let them know they are not alone? We first must internalize Christian principles of conduct within our society.

We know from Romans 12:18 that if possible we should live peaceably with all men. We also realize that we must speak the truth and sometimes the truth may cause persecution and ridicule. In Acts 7:54 after Stephen had preached his sermon they gnashed on him with their teeth. This may be our situation as we oppose sinful practices; however, we must view new laws and regulations to see if they are opposed to the Bible. We have the right as others do to vote, to speak, and to be heard. What we say may cause us to be at the center of discussion; where else were Christ and the apostles in New Testament times?

Christ paid the highest price when he spoke the truth; when he hung on the cross he still loved the people when he said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). As it stands it is unlikely that we will pay the ultimate price by speaking out in this society; however, we must be prepared to deal with it if our lot in life changes.

To further define our role in relation to government we must realize that although the government provides certain rights, it demands certain responsibilities. In viewing Romans 13:1-8 we are quick to discover that: l) we owe obedience to rulers, 2) rulers are from God, and 3) we should not obey because of fear only but for conscience sake. In addition, we are obligated to pay tribute as indicated by Romans 13:6 and Matthew 22:21.

The book of Titus further clarifies our roles by telling us to obey the rulers and be subject to principalities and powers (Titus 3:1-2). We need to work within the law and be attentive to rules and regulations. We can be thankful that we can impact our form of government for the better. The law in our society can be changed and can protect our values.

Did the early Christians interact with the law and government knowing their rights? Let us examine the Scriptures. When Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Acts 16 they reported their Roman citizenship which caused great fear on the magistrates (Rom. 16:33). We also may review the events leading Paul to appeal to Caesar in Acts 25:11. He knew the law and his rights. We wonder how many Christians today know the law and exercise their rights to vote and participate in the governmental process.

We may answer that the task of trying to encourage governmental bodies to adhere to basic morality and pass decent, moral laws is too great. However, consider that we need only to look around the brotherhood to find those who have not bowed the knee to Baal. We know that God can do so many things with so few. The apostles, Gideon and his 300 men, and other examples let us know that we must hold to the course and interact with others for the good.

Christian leaders in the various levels of government can be very helpful to the cause of Christ. We are engaging in spiritual warfare for the souls of men. The rulers of this nation allow us to participate and influence decisions at the highest levels. As long as there is only one Christian left in this country, that Christian must strive to influence the world for Christ. We are not alone.


Published May 1996