How should we approach a world that grows increasingly corrupt every day?
A few days ago a reader asked about my thoughts on a sermon by Paul Harvey titled If I Were the Devil. For readers who may not be familiar with it, Harvey’s famous sermon is a sad and nearly prophetic message about the world’s corruption delivered as if it were an answer to the question of what would the devil do. It’s popular among fundamentalists, particularly for it exposes the evil of the world as Satan’s doing. Although the direction I see the world gunning towards is a mournful one the sermon provides no answer or response to it. It only leaves one asking what can they do about it.
I’ve experienced first hand the various ways Christians respond to evil. The sermon elicits a number of these responses so I’ll write them in bold and offer my thoughts below.
Because the devil has a strong hold over the world we should be praying against and rebuking him so that the world may see Christ.
As righteous as this sounds we need to remember that we aren’t God and we simply cannot return to the place God saved us from (1 Cor 6:17). The demonic has a strong influence outside of the body of Christ, indeed, but that is only because our nature as rebellious people allowed him to. If we step out, believing we can fight what we’ve been saved from, we’ll only fall back into those destructive ways. The bottom line is we do not have the authority or the right to fight Satan where he’s been welcomed and called Prince (John 12:31). The Bible tells us that we are not of this world so why would we fight and defend it as if we still are? On the other hand, if a demonic influence threatens the body of Christ, then we have the right to stop it for it is entering a body it doesn’t belong to. Rebuking the devil in a world he is praised isn’t the right response.
We should strive to change the world and help them realize the lies they’ve bought.
I’ve heard this response a few times and while it is a valiant one it has its focus set on the wrong people. Atheists also believe they stand on the higher moral ground because they believe earth is all they have so they say they dedicate their lives to change it and make it a better place. Unfortunately, you can turn on the news each night and see that it’s nothing more than a dream. This all sounds bleak, I know, but change first and foremost begins with ourselves. We can live to better ourselves each day and those around us also carry that same responsibility. A responsibility that’s becoming increasingly taboo.
As the culture becomes more and more relative and “tolerant” (which may say more than intended for the use of the word implies something wrong to tolerate) the atheist’s dream of change slips farther and farther away. What was once objective is now slack and change is nothing more than switching preferences. More and more are realizing this so what was once immoral is slowly becoming accepted. Changing or influencing the world to see their error cannot be our response as Christians. We live in a world that no longer believes in truth. Only the Holy Spirit can stir their hearts to change.
We should tell them to repent!
Repentance is only one aspect of salvation. If I were atheist someone can put a gun to my head and force me to change my life and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord but can that be called repentance? I would be hard-pressed to find a Christian who agrees despite the very real fact that I turned away from my sins. Salvation doesn’t begin with repentance for we cannot repent if we see no need to. We need to recognize that on our own we struggle against the unbeatable tide called sin. We need to realize that something needs to change and we need someone greater than ourselves.
We should tell them about Jesus!
Finally, we have the only right response to a fallen world. Despite the changing times, the Gospel remains as true as and powerful as it was 2000 years ago. That Jesus lived, died, and rose again is the reason Christianity exists. It is a privilege and a joy to tell the world of Christ and present the truth of His resurrection but it is up to the hearer to make the decision.
Harvey never gave us an answer and as a result sermons like these lead us to believe that the world does not deserve salvation. Notice how each of these responses, bar the Gospel, are rooted in the effort to stop sin. They walk the same self-righteous path Jonah once did, believing that the world does not deserve to hear the Gospel and that Christ cannot love them until they change. As a result we often become angry and bitter at what the world is becoming. None of us deserves God’s gift of salvation yet Christ still offers grace. Self-righteousness once kept us away from Christ and now it keeps us from loving the unlovable.
How should we approach the world? Just as Jesus approached us.