The more we trust in the social and political systems that men create, the more we will feel let down. Such systems inevitably disintegrate. As high-minded as their creators may have been, the slow grind of greed and corruption pulls down the best programs, governments, and initiatives.
When the Continental Congress concluded its work, so goes the story, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government they had been given. “A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” was his grim reply.
It would seem that the framers of the U.S. government were optimistic about their result on paper, but pessimistic about the human race’s ability to sustain such noble ideals. Their pessimism was well founded.
The gospel is free of politics. The Good News of Jesus Christ has no connection to any system of government or social philosophy. It is free to save the souls of people who live under any kind of government and its power reaches behind any wall or fortification.
The gospel reaches the individual. God is concerned with each person. If society or government is changed, it is because hearts are transformed, one by one.
Man engages in social experiments. He loves programs with a long reach, be it Johnson’s high-sounding “War on Poverty” or Lula and Dilma’s Fome Zero or the Catholic Liberation Theology which promoted Marxism throughout Latin America.
Ambitious programs like these tout altruistic goals and claim to effect significant social change, but often conceal widespread corruption and plays for political power. The greater the program, the more funds that can be diverted, the more power that can be concentrated in the hands of a few.
The Lord Jesus Christ avoided such broad, sweeping programs in favor of local communities of Christians reaching out to their fellow men with a message of eternal salvation. That message also makes a difference in their life in the here and now.
Man is in search of Utopia and lives in constant frustration that his efforts fall far short of any sort of ideal society. He doesn’t know it, but his utopian ideas reveal a desire for that place of which he has but the faintest memory: Eden. All his efforts to establish that perfect garden wind up marred by his passions and selfish ambition.
The effort that pagans make in society have a parallel in the spiritual realm that touches earth. Christians devote themselves to their fellow saints. The church turns out to be the only workable society on earth which can replicate the original condition of humankind. Christ built his church on a foundation different from any manmade institution, Matthew 16.18. Every good effort made to build up his Assembled Ones will produce fruit.
The people of God know that attempts to improve society through human means will fail. So they dedicate themselves to that one structure, if we may call it such, that was divinely planned and executed and has God’s guarantee of success.
If the church and only the church can save men now and eternally, through the grace of God, and cause them to live in a selfless society, why would anyone dream of expending his efforts elsewhere?