FIRST-PERSON: The right tools

by Hance Dilbeck, posted Friday, July 27, 2018 (2 months ago)

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- You can do just about anything if you have the right tools.

What tools do we need to use to build and repair our nation? Most everyone agrees that our nation is facing some serious challenges. Christians live with a deep sense of burden and obligation to be salt and light. We want to be good citizens who help build up and not tear down. What tools should we use?

Free citizens of this great nation are blessed with some political powers -- political tools -- that most people in our world do not possess. We can vote. Americans can influence public policy and actively participate in our democracy. We can protest and run for public office. Baptists in America have always sought to use everything in their political toolbox.

In 1789, after the passage of the Bill of Rights, James Madison wrote to George Washington:

"One of the principal leaders of the Baptists lately sent me word that the amendments have entirely satisfied the disaffected of his Sect, and that it would appear in their subsequent conduct."

Our Baptist forefathers were exercising the political tools they had gained with independence.

In the broad span of history, the political tools of our democracy are new. They are helpful and effective; however, we do have some older tools. We have tools of influence that Christians have been using to build, to repair, and to shape nations and cultures for centuries -- tools of influence available to every follower of Jesus no matter the political status.

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy about these God-given tools of public influence in 1 Timothy 2:1-5:

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

In view of Paul's exhortation, we must:

Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ

As Christians, we can repair a broken nation by helping restore broken people -- Jesus heals broken people. We transform a city by transforming its citizens. All political power is puny compared to the life-changing power of the Gospel.

Live a pure life

Our culture is rotten because the Salt has lost its distinctive flavor. Our nation is dark because the Light has grown dim. We are the Salt and Light. Lost people are expected to live like lost people, but the church ought to behave differently. When Christians live like the blood-bought people of God, we exercise an influence far more potent than any political power.

Pray

The church at Ephesus had no political clout. They were largely nobodies -- people without status. Yet, Paul called them to make prayer a priority. He believed they could influence even Nero through prayer. History confirms this truth.

The first few generations of the church had no political tools. They did have some spiritual weapons, spiritual tools. They turned the world upside down by using the oldest, strongest and most reliable of all tools of influence: prayer, purity and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Father, forgive us for the ways we have set these old tools aside.

Hance Dilbeck is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. This column first appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
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