Should a Christian be silent in the presence of this earth’s great wrongs? Ought he not to strive to put the world right?
It is hardly conceivable that the Christian should be silent and thus condone the wrongs. However, the point is this: When he opens his mouth against them, what is his object in doing so?
Have Christians been commissioned by God to set the world right? Are they set as kings upon God’s holy hill of Zion to dispense judgment and justice in the earth? They are not. That task belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, (see Ps. 2 and Ps. 72). The putting of the world right will be quickly accomplished by Him at His second coming.
The prophets of the O.T. and the apostles of the N.T. were not silent as to the enormity of men’s sins, but they made more of men’s sins against God than of a man’s sins against his neighbour. They pressed home those sins on men’s consciences with the object of bringing them to repentance and thus into right relations with God. If, as the result of men getting right with God, they changed their ways and thus abuses were corrected, it was indeed well. This however, was a secondary consequence, and not the primary object of the believer’s witness.
Some may respond to this by saying that there surely can be no harm in the believer doing all he can to improve things. Yet if a believer allows himself to be side–tracked from the main line of God’s purpose for us there is very great harm indeed! Here is a child of God most earnestly labouring at work God never allotted to him, a work so utterly beyond his powers that it has been reserved for accomplishment by the mighty Son of God at His second advent! No harm? There is in fact a double harm. First, the waste of energy in the pursuit of what is not God’s present programme. Secondly, the neglect of what is.
The Church on earth is like an embassy in a foreign country. Are the officials of the British embassy in Paris placed in that city in order to improve French life? Do they conduct an agitation, or join clubs for political reform? They do not. They are there to look after the interests of their own king and country, and to rightly represent those interests in the eyes of the French people. To interfere with French affairs would be really an insult to the French people. We Christians, are ambassadors for Christ, (2 Cor. 5: 20), and are concerned with His interests. We represent Him. We do not meddle with world interests as though we were natives in the world system, and not foreigners.
We do not deny that as we go through the world we should do all the good we can, but the crux of the matter lies in the question—what good can we do? Let us suppose a ship, is grounded on a sand bank in a gale and the seas are breaking her up. The life–boat draws near. The coxswain skilfully brings it alongside the doomed vessel. However, instead of removing the sailors by rope from the battered ship into the security of the life–boat, the majority of the life–boat men spring on to the wreck, hammer in hand, and with a bag of heavy nails slung on their backs. They attempt with feverish energy to undo the sea’s ravages and nail up the ship’s shattered planks. The coxswain protests, but they have an answer ready. Are they not doing all the good they can to the imperilled ship? Possibly they are, but they have forsaken their true calling. They are life–boat men and not ship’s carpenters. Moreover, their puny efforts fail. Their nails are no match for the raging sea. Their work is destroyed, and the sailors who might have been saved, are drowned. Need we apply our parable? Do all the good you can; but what GOOD can you do?
What then, is the object of the service and activities of the Christian? To save people out of the world as the parable just used indicates. We cannot too earnestly press this point. Thousands of Christians are busy tinkering with the growing defects of the world system. The oncoming tide of lawlessness and apostasy will submerge all their efforts, and meanwhile they are diverted from what they could accomplish under God, that is the saving of souls out of the world–system. The mischief does not end here. By these well–meant efforts they are themselves entangled in the world–system, instead of taking their stand with Paul and saying, “through whom [the] world is crucified to me, and I to the world”, (Gal. 6: 14).
When Lot sat in the gate of Sodom, (Gen. 19: 1), he acted as a magistrate, and being a righteous man he must have longed to improve Sodom’s fearful state of immorality and unrighteousness. He accomplished nothing save the wrecking of his own power to witness against it and the destruction of his family. “But he was as if he jested, in the sight of his sons–in–law”, (v14). He himself barely escaped, without any power to deliver others. His wife was lost, and though the angels extricated his two unmarried daughters, they promptly involved their back–slidden father in the very sins of Sodom itself! What a story! How great the warning for us! Let us take heed to it.