Hymn: Christ, by Heavenly Hosts Adored (CW 617)
A madman kills fifty-eight in Las Vegas. The opioid epidemic claims thousands. Domestic violence shatters families. Sexual abuse ruins lives. Racial tensions remain high. Abortion is still legal. Sexual purity is a joke. The gulf between the political right and left grows wider every day. Wildfires rage out west. Hurricanes devastate Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. North Korea has nuclear weapons. Terrorists still threaten our security.
When you hear so much bad news, you might want to run away from it all. It is easy for Christians to think, Wouldn’t it be great if we could just form our own little Christian communities? Then we could escape those wicked people and their sinful influence. Then we could live in peace in our little Lutheran village. Well, no. God does not want Christians to cocoon themselves and shut out the world. In fact, Christians in the Middle Ages tried this and it failed. Many Christian tried to run away from the wickedness of the world by entering monasteries. Supposedly, in a monastery, a Christian could devote his time and effort to praying and worshiping God. The Christian would be free from all the distractions and temptations of the turbulent, evil world outside the monastery walls.
Martin Luther himself was a monk. But he discovered that life as a monk led to one great evil, worse than all the other evils of the “world out there.” A monk tried to save himself with his own prayers, with his own vows of poverty, chastity, and submission. A monk tried to work his way into heaven with his own good deeds. That way of life destroyed salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. Being a monk led to damnation, not salvation.
But Luther also discovered a second great evil of the monasteries: Christians were running away from the world instead of helping the world. You see, no matter how troubled or wicked the world is, Christians belong in the world, but, not of the world. Christians are the salt of the earth and light of the world. Christians have a duty to society. If society is in trouble, the only people that can really help are Christians. So, God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions tell us: The world needs us.
Saint Paul writes to Timothy, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Christians are supposed to pray for the good of all people, especially our political leaders. Now, if you pray for someone, that means you care about that person. And if you care, then you must act.
The Augsburg Confession lists some actions to show we care about God’s world and that we want to help God’s world. It says, "lawful civil ordinances are good works of God. [I]t is right for Christians to hold civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by…existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage."
The Augsburg Confessions also says, "[The Gospel]… does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that love be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates and laws."
So, do you want to be a good Christian? Well, first of all, trust in Jesus Christ. Believe that his righteousness becomes your righteousness by faith. But then put your faith into practice. Obey the law. Respect the courts. Display conspicuous loyalty and honor to your country in every possible way. Serve your country by being a lawyer, a judge, a politician, a soldier, a police officer, a fireman, a civil engineer, a public-school teacher, a mailman, a social worker, or any other civil servant. Or, you can open your own business. Hire employees. Or, simply be a diligent, honest worker.
In addition to these things, help this troubled world by raising a Christian family. A Christian should never think, “I could never bring a child into this sinful world.” Wrong! This world needs more Christians, raised in loving, Christian homes. These faithful children will then grow up and become productive members of society for the well-being of their country.
And, we do all this with love and respect. The Augsburg Confession says that love be practiced in such ordinances. So, Christians dare never to be raving extremists. Christians do not join angry protest mobs. Christians do not write nasty letters to politicians, bosses, or business leaders. Christians do not use social media to accuse, bully, or spread gossip. Instead, Christians show respect and patience to all people. They speak to all people, even their opponents, with the kindest possible words. They set the example of honest, law-abiding, faithful citizens.
Again, Saint Paul tells us why all this is so important: "I urge, … that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men."
God wants us to pray for the world and serve the world so this world can receive what it really needs. This world really needs Jesus. That’s why the Apostles kept on preaching Jesus Christ as Savior even when the Jewish Sanhedrin commanded them not to do it. The Apostles obeyed God rather than man in this area. But in all other areas the Apostles obeyed and respected their leaders, even though their leaders were unbelievers.
In our world today, there are plenty of unbelievers. There are plenty of wicked people. But we do not help these people by withdrawing from society and forming little Lutheran monasteries. No, we help and serve God’s world when serve society in a loving, respectful way—even if we are mocked and abused for our faith. We do all this so that we can share the good news of Jesus Christ as much as possible. Then, by God’s grace, more people will come to faith and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Of course, we Christians still need the safety and security of our church. Attending church is an island of tranquility in the stormy ocean of this sinful world. Yes, we need to come to church and receive the good news that Jesus Christ is our Savior, too. We especially need to call on Jesus and say, Lord Jesus, forgive me for all the times I have broken the law, mocked my leaders, angered those in authority, and shirked my duties. Lord, forgive me for all the times I have been lazy, angry, proud, and self-righteously looked down on all those sinners “out there” who aren’t as "holy as I am." Yes, Lord, forgive me for all the times I have failed to tell others the good news of your life, death, and resurrection. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Yes, confess to the Lord all your sins. But rejoice in the Lord’s forgiveness. Rejoice that Jesus has made you a member of his Holy Christian Church. Rejoice that you are also a citizen of heaven. But also rejoice that Jesus has made you the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Rejoice and take pride in your position as a Christian in this world. And love your neighbor as yourself because your neighbor needs you. In fact, the whole world now needs us. The world needs Christians because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s what the world needs most of all.