These last few days I have come across multiple situations or happenings dealing with the themes of hope, renewal, and restoration. As we continue in this season of Advent, we look forward to, remember, and celebrate the coming of our Lord, and we see that Jesus brought hope and is our hope. He came so that our relationship with the Father, which has been broken by sin, can be restored and renewed. And we have the blessed hope that one day Jesus is going to come again and make all things new and set all things right.
In a personal conversation I had just the other day I shared the reason I continue to speak as I do is that I believe in a God that renews and restores and I have hope for the evangelical Christian culture (more specifically the Western/American/mostly White evangelical Christian culture), which in many ways is my family. Despite the perception that some have that I just like to criticize or judge or point out negative stuff, there is actually a purpose to it all, that being I have hope God will renew and restore, and just maybe as I follow in obedience what I believe God has for me to do, I’ll be just one small tool that God uses to make that happen.
There is, however, one more “R” that must accompany renewal and restoration in order for those things to occur, and that is repentance. Without repentance, renewal and restoration cannot occur. In the priority of things, if we do not first recognize how our sin has separated us from God, repent of it, and trust what Jesus has done for us, we cannot be reconciled in relationship with Him. Even after we have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, if we continue in persistent, unrepentant sin, God is not going to bring further renewal and restoration that we may desire, for ourselves, or church, or culture.
Thus I have hope for the Western/American Evangelical Christian culture, but it’s going to take repentance to get there. We all have things on a personal level of which we regularly need to repent, but I am speaking here of a larger, corporate, public level of iniquity. I am speaking of those collectively perpetrated and sometimes even celebrated sins that have hurt many others, have besmirched the name of Christ, and have significantly contributed to an increasingly negative perception that many others in our broader culture have of evangelical Christians.
We need to repent of idol worship of Christian celebrities (pastors, ministry leaders, politicians, etc.) where we protect and justify them in their wrongs, specifically wrongs that harm or mislead others and/or are disqualifying of their positions of leadership, and denigrate those who identify and reveal the wrongs. We need to repent of being more concerned with maintaining desired reputations, whether for ourselves or our favored people and organizations, than we are with doing what is right. We need to repent of fusing politics with Christianity and committing the sins of prejudice and partiality. We need to repent of repeated slander committed against those we view as the enemy or the “other side” by promoting and passing on untrue, deceptive, and unverified accusations and information about them. We need to repent of an “ends justify the means” attitude that causes us to rationalize the use of unrighteous means we think will produce the desired ends we have deemed to be righteous. We need to repent of caring more about parts of God’s Law that line up with our desired political inclinations while minimizing if not outright ignoring the greater parts of God’s Law which call us to love our neighbor and to seek mercy and justice, especially for the downtrodden and disadvantaged. We need to repent of being more concerned with our “rights” than we are with considering how sometimes the demand for or execution of those rights can adversely affect others and ignore the exhortations in Scripture to think of others first.
I have hope for renewal and restoration because I believe in a God who desires these things and is far, far greater than me. From our end, I think it’s going to take a lot of effort and intentionality and it’s not going to be easy. Call me naive, but if we honestly consider the current state and standing of our Christian culture, one would think it wouldn’t hurt to try.