Legislative Evangelism

I’m not sure I have said it but I know I have thought it and I certainly have heard it over and over again. “What is happening to our country? At one time we were a Christian country.” This is usually the start of a longer discussion that can be summed up this way; the laws of the country and the conduct of the people do not match my Christian beliefs. I need to stop thinking this way. When I assign the responsibility of transforming people to those who pass our laws and base my assessment of the level of need for this transformation on the moral behaviour of the masses, I make God irrelevant.

There is a certain irony to complaining that God has become irrelevant in our country when we expect humans, not God, to effect change.

We have become reliant on the laws of the land to tell us and everyone else what is needed to live as a Christian. This is the main reason I started using the term Christ follower instead of Christian. When people invoke the term Christian they often are referring to a set of standards and morals upon which the legal system of a country is formed. It wasn’t always that way. When the followers of the way were first called Christians it referred to following Christ regardless of the laws of the land or the rules of the religious elite. They relied on God through His Spirit for their directions. The first followers of Christ lived counter to the laws and yet they grew in numbers and they grew in their faith.

Our faith has become weak and our view of the faith of others blurred by the mirage created through legislation that parallels our understanding of what it is to follow Christ.

I do not live in a Christian country. You do not live in a Christian country. No one has ever lived in a Christian country. Don’t fall for this version of revisionist history. A country cannot follow Christ and its laws cannot turn people into Christ followers. We have been told over and over again that Christ following is not about religion it’s about relationship. Religion is a bunch of rules that attempt to make God happy. Relationship creates the desire to make God happy. Then someone changes one of our country’s laws offering the opportunity to live life in a way that does not conform to our Christian beliefs and all of a sudden it’s no longer about relationship. It is time for legislation to take over and create a bunch of nationwide rules that will make people do things to make God happy.

If only we could return to the good old days when prayer was in schools and the Ten Commandments on the walls of our government buildings – things were better then.

If only God judged the appearance of people rather than their hearts. A quick glance at a framed version of the Ten Commandments and the ability to recite the formula for prayer that Jesus gave the disciples would mean eternal life for all who completed these tasks. We have created an appearance of Christ following while leaving the hearts of mankind unchanged. We have fought harder for Christian ideals to be the focus of legislation and institutions than we have fought for individuals to have faith in Christ as the focus of their lives. For years we have relied on legislative evangelism (forcing people to act like Christians through lawmaking) to change the belief system in our country instead of true evangelism to change the hearts and behaviours of the people. The way God asks me to live and my willingness to live that way cannot be based on the laws of the land. People embracing the way God asks them to live and their willingness to live the way God intended them to live, cannot be based on the laws of the land.

Maybe you have been caught up in the “legislative evangelism” movement.

  1. Have you looked to the laws of the land as a moral compass for yourself?
  2. Have you expected the laws of the land to enforce your Christian beliefs?
  3. Have you viewed the laws of the land as a tool in bringing Christianity to people?

The church is rapidly growing in countries that have laws forbidding Christian faith. The church is stagnant in countries that have had laws mirroring Christian faith. Those who have a personal relationship with God are much more likely to do what pleases God. Those who live in a country that legislates Christian values are much more likely to put their faith in the laws and change them to fit their own ideals. Legislative evangelism is a failure. When God becomes relevant in people’s lives, moral guidance from human laws becomes irrelevant.

The enemy of Christian belief is not laws that contradict these beliefs but people who rely on lawmakers to enforce them.

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