Letter Writers for Jesus
You are the light of the world.
This post comes fresh on the heels of a little victory: After submitting it on five separate occasions (twice in hard copy)—and personally calling the Editor three times—I finally prevailed on the staff of our (quite liberal) local newspaper, the Press Democrat, to publish a letter on a subject close to my heart: the sanctity of marriage.
In a moment, I will share it with you.
But first, an exhortation: Would you please give some prayerful consideration to becoming a habitual letter writer for Jesus?
The rewards are many.
It will deepen your grasp of the biblical worldview, forcing you to discern the proper application of biblical truth to the great issues of our time.
It will sharpen your skills as a researcher, thinker, and writer.
If your letters are published (and good ones usually are), it will give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to teach, convict, and encourage your non-christian neighbors.
God willing, it will nudge public opinion and the surrounding culture towards God and his truth, thus improving the quality of life in our community and nation.
It will encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ: As they see other believers thoughtfully, courteously, and fearlessly speaking up for the truth, they will not only be gladdened, but also emboldened to do the same.
And above all, it will bring pleasure and honor to the Lord.
A Few Thoughts on Theory
Why do so few Christians write letters to the editor? Well, it’s certainly not because they’re incapable of doing so; nor is it because they don’t want to. Read Acts 17 and you’ll see that the Spirit of God in Paul was positively itching for him to get into the philosophical fray!
No, my suspicion is that Christians avoid the editorial page because they have come to believe that there is something improper about offering a faith-perspective on the great issues of the day. They feel that “the separation of church and state” somehow implies the “the separation of God and politics.” In other words, they have bought into the premise of the secular elites who control so many of our institutions (including much of the media), that in our pluralistic society the public square must be “naked,” secular, utterly devoid of God-talk.
But there are two excellent reasons for rejecting this premise, one of them biblical, the other constitutional.
The Prophetic Mission of the Church
First, according to the Bible, the State—which at different levels fashions all our public policy—is a minister of God (Romans 13:4). I cannot overemphasize this point. God himself has told us that in any given nation the governmental leaders have a positive obligation to obey and implement his will, his laws. Moreover, if they do not, they have lost the mandate of heaven and are henceforth subject to his judgments, up to and including defeat by other nations.
Now if this is true, it is clear that Christians in every land—living under any and every form of government—have an equally positive obligation to, a) learn God’s true perspective on a given issue (this can be tough!), b) teach their leaders what it is, and c) respectfully urge them to implement it.
In other words, in addition to preaching the Gospel, the Church of Christ has a prophetic mission to the Sate; an implicit mandate to hold the feet of our temporal leaders to the fire of God’s law, urging them to seek and enforce true justice. There are lots of ways Christians can do this, all the way from running for President . . . to writing a letter to the editor.
The Theistic Worldivew of Our Constitution
Secondly, according to our founding documents, it is God the Creator who endows all men with their various rights and obligations; and it is God the Judge who makes sure we live according to them!
In other words, unlike the leaders of the French Revolution, our founding fathers embraced a theistic worldview, and therefore sought to structure our national life according to their best understanding of His will. (Guess what Book played a major role in determining that!)
In view of all this, why should any Christian American, in arguing for or against any particular public policy, be ashamed of appealing to God and his self-evident laws—laws written upon the human heart and embedded in the biblical revelation that has served for centuries as the very foundation of Western civilization?
A Few Thoughts on Practice
Our Lord told us to be wise as serpents, innocent as doves. When we write our letters, we must do so shrewdly, operating within the broad parameters of our political system, and being sensitive to cultural trends in our own locale.
Here then are a few homespun practical guidelines that may prove helpful to Christian letter writers as they seek to lift up their voice for the glory of their Lord and the good of their community.
1. Bounce off a Relevant Current Event
Do you feel strongly about an issue? Wait till a current event pops up that gives you a good excuse to share your thoughts on it. In the letter below, I bounced off President Obama’s refusal to defend the DOMA, in order to share a spiritual perspective on marriage.
2. Do a Little Research
In these days of Google and Yahoo, it’s pretty easy to get up to speed on any given issue. In particular, when researching an issue, you may want to consult the archives of your favorite Christian bloggers. For example, I like regularly to read Chuck Colson (www.breakpoint.org), Al Mohler (www.albertmohler.com), Nancy Pearcy (www.pearceyreport.com), and Justin Taylor (www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor).
3. Ask a Trusted Friend to Critique Your Letter
If you are not confident about any aspect of your letter, email it to a trusted friend and ask that he/she look it over, making suggestions about content, tone, and/or literary quality. If, like I have, you ever come to experience the sick feeling of dashing off a letter that is actually unworthy of the Lord (not to mention embarrassing to you, your family, and your church), you will find this practice most valuable!
4. Be Judicious in Incorporating Spiritual Perspectives
In writing a letter to the editor, my goal is to bring a Christian—or at least a theistic—perspective to my non-christian neighbors. I am trying to display, if only a little, the beauty and value of the biblical worldview on this subject. However, in doing so I strive to be judicious, not wanting to leave my readers feeling spiritually accosted. Rarely, if ever, will I cite Bible verses (a pretty sure formula for getting your letter rejected). I will, however, quote them, or paraphrase them. Likewise, I will not usually present the gospel directly, unless, of course, the gospel is the current event at issue (e.g., Many are writing letters to the editor about Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins, in which he defends universalism). Rather, my aim is to let the beauty of God’s wisdom on a given subject draw my reader to a further consideration of His Book and His Son.
5. Watch Your Tone
Alas, I have learned the importance of this from painful personal experience. We all feel strongly about “our” issues, so strongly that we can easily become angry when our opponents use foolish or deceptive arguments and tactics to promote their views. The problem is that man’s anger does not usually advance the righteous purposes of God. Nor does sarcasm, reviling, or ugly threats: Who can calculate the damage to the cause of Christ done by the Westboro Baptist Church? For my part, I think that the right spirit is best described in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, where Paul teaches that God’s servants must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, always correcting their opponents with gentleness, in hopes that God, who alone can change hearts, will grant repentance, faith, and a whole new way of seeing the world!
6. Extend Hope—and Whenever Possible, Christ Himself
People attach themselves to issues and viewpoints that give them the hope of finding a better life. As Christians, we know that in the end the only real hope is Christ. Therefore, if we can, let us extend real hope by extending Christ. I cannot give you a formula for incorporating him into your letter. In fact, sometimes I have found it impossible to do so directly; I have found I must point to him simply by communicating his truth in his Spirit, trusting that my readers will understand whom I represent, and who has sent me. But let us do what we can. Let us pray that God will give us a winsome way of showing just a little of Alsan’s mane; of the glory, power, and goodness of Him who alone is the REAL hope and the REAL solution to every issue of this amazing life.
If I feel the Lord has given me a good letter, I will often submit it over and again until it is published. If necessary, I will call or write the editor, asking how I might improve the letter, or why exactly he declined to publish it. If done respectfully, such persistence honors the Lord, showing the editorial staff that Christian people, unlike the radical left, can feel deeply about issues, yet carry their passion with self-control and respect for the office and viewpoints of others who differ from them.
And now, here is my blood-spattered (and unedited) letter on Gay Marriage. Again, I hope it will embolden you to speak up publicly about the issues that weigh on your own heart. For there, on the field of battle, you will know the incomparable joy of hearing the shout of your King! (Numbers 23:21)
March 15 , 2011
In direct violation of his oath of office, President Obama refuses to defend the DOMA. Meanwhile, not wanting to appear “hateful,” Republicans refuse to defend the truth.
But in our hearts, we already know it, and all world religions affirm it: Gay marriage is contrary to nature and nature’s God, who self-evidently designed the sexes to complement one another physically and psychologically, and who therefore wills that children be reared by Dad and Mom.
We dare not leave Him out of this debate. Our founding documents honor the Creator as the fountainhead of all our rights. And in the eyes of Him who judges the nations, there is never a right to do wrong.
For this reason, gay marriage, like divorce, would be bad for everyone: for gays, for children, and for society at large, since marriage is the God-ordained womb of a nation’s character and future.
We are at a crossroads. We can embrace true marriage and be blessed, or sink in a mire of endless legal strife over state’s rights, divorce, custody, adoption, polyamorous and incestuous liaisons, and the free speech privileges of those who oppose homosexual practice.
The choice, with its unspeakably weighty consequences, is ours.