Changing community

Start with the gospelby Barry Newton

We have thoughts and feelings about people who stick their noses into our business to tell us what to do and how to do it. Resistance can immediately build, especially if we don’t like the advice.

Most of us are experts at diminishing and deflecting an unwanted intruder’s input. “My life is my own business.” “Why should I care what you think.” As though we are covered with a teflon coating, disagreeable words simply slide away from securing a foothold.

Considering how people commonly reject unpleasant ideas, perhaps contemporary Christians should pay close attention to Paul, if we wish to influence society. After all, his writings successfully influenced Western Civilization for centuries.

Before Paul whispers even a hint about godly morality, ethics, lifestyle, or social roles, he consistently first establishes the power of ought, an ought anchored in God.

Take his letter to the saints at Ephesus as an example. Paul opens with a flourish outlining God’s plan from before the world began. God determined he would redeem people through his Son. Paul underscores that it is God’s power and his grace that have raised up the spiritually dead to become alive with Christ. Accordingly, the Christian as God’s workmanship is utterly dependent upon God for becoming this new creation.

Furthermore, God has also unfurled his communal plan for those he is rescuing through Christ. Regardless of ethnic background, God unites his people within the body of Christ.

It is only after the Christian understands his or her place within God’s activity does Paul venture to utter the challenge to live worthily of the life God calls his people to attain. Proper theology lays the foundation for proper ethics and morality.

Let’s not be naive. In Ephesians Paul also teaches that before people come to Christ, they serve and indulge the cravings of the flesh and the human mind. Since evil will invent a justifying rationale, how can we acquire solid footing to argue for godly ways without first speaking about God?

It would seem that if we really want to make an impact on society for good, we had better lose all shyness about proclaiming that the Creator has sent his Son to rescue us.

We need to seek the change that God brings from within. And like Paul, we should say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NET).

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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