At one of our church’s recent corporate prayer meeting, we prayed for our nation. We prayed that the government would not legalise gay marriage, that the horrific practise of abortion would cease. More broadly, we prayed that our nation’s slide toward paganism would be slowed. Why do we pray for these things? Why do we need to contend for social, moral, and political issues? I was reminded of one of my favourite quotes from the great J. Gresham Machen. He explains an important reason why Christians must contend for these sorts of issues:
“We are all agreed that at least one great function of the Church is the conversion of individual men. The missionary movement is the great religious movement of our day. Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no labor-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hard-work.
“And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel.
“It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless.
“But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel.
“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.
“We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.
“Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root. . . .
“What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassioned debate.” (HT: Justin Taylor.)
Christianity is the one truth. As Francis Schaeffer liked to say, it is true truth. We pray against lies, and against abominations, because ideas matter. The furthering of lies affects people, and their ability to receive the gospel. We pray against the legalising of homosexual marriage, against the murder of unborn and birthed children, against the propagation of lies in schools, against the march of secularism, against the Global Atheist Convention, against the spread of tyrannical governments across the world – why? Sure, these issues are not the gospel itself. But, as Douglas Wilson has recently pointed out, they are law. People must repent and believe, not just believe. Repentance requires them to submit to the law. How we handle moral, political, and social issues affects how the gospel is communicated and received.
Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth, and when things do not reflect that truth they either distort it or obscure it, we pray about the distortions and the things that stand in the way. We pray because we love people who are made in God’s image, and we want them to be free from all evil. Primarily, though, we pray because we want them to know the truth and have new life in the triune God. Because where He is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)