For much of the 20th century, we Americans lived in a nation that at least paid lip service to the Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded. As a Christian, it was pretty easy to feel “at home” in most places in America. What you heard on Sunday mornings in your church was not that different from the views expressed by large numbers of people with whom you worked and lived. Of course, many of those people with whom we lived were not believers, but they didn’t seem that different from us. We didn’t stick out. It was easy to blend in.
As we ended the last century and are now into the 16th year of the 21st century, the Church has realized that its values and worldview are not very popular in our culture anymore and sound “crazy” to most people. What is right is now being called wrong and what is wrong is now labeled as right. We are living in a society that mirrors what the prophet Isaiah decried in 5:20-21, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”
A few evenings ago I had dinner with a coworker who was baffled by the truly evil behavior of people with whom he works. His belief that people are basically good was falling apart and he couldn’t cope with the implications. When I shared that the Bible tells us that all people are born with sinful and selfish natures, separated from God, he said that theory was brand new to him but seemed to fit with what he was experiencing. I explained that it wasn’t a theory, but was a truth as old as the Fall.
We may feel as though it’s time to circle the wagons and separate ourselves from a society that has become hostile to Christianity. Our desire for self-preservation would justify withdrawing from those who wish us ill. But listen to what God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to write to the exiled Israelites in Babylon—a nation that truly was their enemy and who had forcibly carried them into captivity: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV). We are called to seek the welfare of those around us. We are to be salt and light in a perverse generation.
Perhaps more than ever in our lifetimes, proclaiming and displaying the love of Christ through acts of kindness and gentleness will be more visible to our coworkers and neighbors because it has become a much more “alien” way to live and act in today’s society. Stewardship is using all that God has given us to benefit those around us. The prophet Jeremiah was actually calling the exiled Israelites to be good stewards. Christ is calling us to show the world who he is by how we live, act and care for others. May we be faithful stewards for his glory.
Roy Heggland serves the CLB as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.