It is alarming, indeed, to read the stories that come out almost daily chronicling the depravity, the cruelty, the indifference and the ignorance of this generation. There are things happening now which many of us could never have imagined. Our very way of life is threatened and seems even now to be precariously hanging in the balance. What does the future have in store for us if this trend continues? What can be done to turn this situation around?
Edmund Burke once said, “Tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of your young men, and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation.” This is so obviously true. The Bible makes clear the fate of a society that no longer remembers and accepts God’s rule: it will devolve into chaos, and complete destruction is its destiny (Jud. 2:10; 17:6). We must remain confident, however, that while the wicked may prosper temporarily (Jer. 12:1), God’s just judgement will surely come, if not here and now, then ultimately and finally beyond the veil (Acts 17:30,31). But what of the here and now? What can be done, if anything at all, to change the direction into which we are now heading?
First, we must recognize that everyone is an individual and will stand before the judgement seat of Christ to be judged in that capacity (II Cor. 5:10). None of us can force anyone else to be good. Parents, more than anyone, have influence over someone else, i.e., their children (Prov. 22:6), but too often this influence is squandered. Even under the best parental guidance, however, every child is going to stand on his own at the judgement (Ez. 18:20). The only power we really have is a little persuasion (Acts 26:28) and a little influence (Matt. 5:13-16) and, in this country, a little political power of voting.
Second, since all we have is persuasion and influence, we have to do more persuading and more influencing others for the cause of Christ. We should never be afraid of, nor tire of, or be ashamed of, speaking the truth of God, regardless of what others may say. We must never grow weary of doing well. Rather than retreat from the world–which often is a tempting choice for those of us who like to live quiet and peaceable lives–we must engage it! This does not mean that we should conform to it (Rom. 12:1,2), but we must shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world (Phil. 2:15). While it will be a hard balance, Christians need to become teachers, civic leaders, business leaders, etc., all the while manifesting an unreproachable Christian character. We also must speak the necessary truths at every opportunity.
Finally, we, ourselves, must live above reproach. Known hypocrites are not generally most influential people. Paul wrote to the young man Timothy that he was to be, and to exhort other young men to be, “sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Tit. 2:6-8). We are to be examples in word, in conversation, charity, spirit, faith and purity (I Tim. 4:12). Only when we ourselves lead such exemplar lives, can we hope to influence others for good.
Make no mistake, evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse (II Tim. 3:13). But we can be, and the Lord expects us to be, beacons of light shining forth the word of truth (Matt. 5:13-16). We must put on the armor of light if we expect to cast off the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12). The Lord is coming back to judge this world. Let us do as much as we can to see that souls hear the Truth before that time and maybe, just maybe, we can turn this society around a little, at least, in the process.
Eric L. Padgett