What Is the Christian’s Obligation?
Is it the duty of a Christian to try to reform the world and make it better? Many professed Christians answer that question in the affirmative. But does the Bible?
MANY persons have been taught to believe that many of the nations of earth constitute Christendom. Yet they admit much sin is in Christendom. Accordingly, they believe it to be their duty to help clean it up and also to reform heathendom. They hope that by their efforts in this direction this world will eventually become wholly Christian and a better place in which to live.
To accomplish their purpose they give their support to the United Nations organization and international peace pacts and participate in the politics of this world. They join welfare societies and brotherhood movements. With adult and juvenile delinquency continually on the increase, they probe the causes and make plans to try to grapple with the situation. ‘Back to the church’ movements and religious revivals are staged from time to time. And yet, in spite of the best endeavors of many well-meaning persons, newspapers throughout the earth daily proclaim the sad fact that this old world, instead of being reformed, is going steadily from bad to worse. Crime in all its forms is on the increase. Prisons, reformatories, Borstal institutions, asylums and similar institutions are full to overflowing. Has the Christian been commissioned to fight a losing battle? or is this idea of making this old world a better place a mistaken one?
Those who believe the Bible and who are familiar with its contents know that Jehovah’s power is without limitation and that he would never instruct his servants to attempt the impossible, nor would he commission them to support a lost cause. Where, then, did this idea originate? The facts show that both the statesmen and the religious leaders have made the claim that they can make the earth a fit place for man and make it safe for him. And since the clergy have openly allied themselves with the political rulers and advocated support for the schemes of men, millions of honest-hearted people have been deceived concerning God’s purpose. They have considered it to be in harmony with God’s will that the Christian should devote his time and energy to try to make the world a better place.
In support of their view religious leaders claim that Christ took an active part in the political life of his day and shared in social reforms. But did he? There is certainly nothing in the Scriptural record to support that allegation. On the contrary, when before Pilate, Christ stated: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36, AV) There is not one scripture that shows that Jesus had anything whatsoever to do with the politics of his day. Nor did he spend his time trying to improve the living conditions of the people or in reform movements. From the time he began his ministry, at thirty years of age, he proclaimed the truth. Said he: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37, AV) The truth he preached was concerning God’s kingdom.
In giving instruction to his disciples about God’s kingdom and teaching them to pray for it Jesus did not have in mind the conversion of the old world. What did he mean, then, when he said: “The kingdom of God is within you”? (Luke 17:21, AV) Did this not mean that the Kingdom was in the hearts of men and that the obligation of his followers was therefore to convert as many as possible? No! Such could not be the correct understanding. Note that Jesus was not speaking to those who had accepted him or who had faith in his kingdom, but to the Pharisees, who were bitter opponents of the truth he proclaimed. Surely no one would claim that the kingdom was within their hearts! The better, modern New World Translation makes the matter clear. What Jesus said to these unbelieving Pharisees was “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21) In other words, he had been anointed to be King in the kingdom of God’s righteous new world and, although not accepted by the Pharisees, he was there in their midst proclaiming that kingdom.
Jehovah promised to establish a righteous government under the rulership of his beloved Son, Christ Jesus. (Isa. 9:6, 7, AV) Such government was to be a real government and not merely a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men. It was to be a government without end and one which would bring lasting peace, a government under which obedient men would enjoy life eternal on a paradise earth.
The purpose of this government is, not to clean up the old world, but to destroy it. Says Jehovah through the prophet Daniel: “The God of heaven [shall] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Dan. 2:44, AV) This was the kingdom about which Jesus spoke 1900 years ago and for which he taught his followers to pray. Before this kingdom was to be set up there was first to be a worldwide testimony given concerning the same.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PREACHING
To this end Christ Jesus trained his disciples to preach and made it clear that this was to be the most important thing in their lives. That such was to be their main obligation and responsibility was appreciated by some, for we are told that when invited to be “fishers of men” they immediately “abandoned their nets” to follow him. These early disciples followed Jesus on his travels. They listened to him address the multitudes. They accompanied him to the homes of the people. When Christ Jesus was cross-questioned about the things he said, they would listen with joy to the refutations he made as he quoted his Father’s Word as authority. On other occasions he would call them aside and give them private instruction. Then when they were trained he sent them forth to preach. What was the message? To clean up the old world? To try to convert all mankind? No. “He sent them forth to preach the kingdom of God.”—Luke 9:2.
There were those back there who thought other things were of greater importance than preaching. For example, one said: “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” But he was told: “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59, 60, AV) This did not mean the father was dead already, otherwise the son would not have been there listening to Jesus. No, the young man was playing for time. Instead of being ready to follow Christ immediately he wanted first to go home. He knew his father would die sooner or later, so he thought he would go back home and wait for that occasion before becoming a full-time preacher. The young man’s relatives were not following Jesus on the way to life and hence were spiritually dead. And so Jesus told him that they could do the needful, but that his obligation, if he wished to be His follower, was to preach the gospel.
How much more important it is to preach the good news of salvation by him today. We are now living in the days of the second presence of the Son of man. The long-promised Kingdom of God has been established in the heavens. (Rev. 12:5, 10) Christ Jesus now rules in the midst of his enemies. (Ps. 110:1, 2) The present system of things has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Soon it will be completely destroyed at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:12-16) How can a true Christian use time and energy to try to bolster up or clean up that which Jehovah has condemned to destruction? Said Paul, writing to the Corinthians: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Cor. 6:14-17, AV) The definite command is here given to all true Christians to have no part in the schemes of men. They must be separate and distinct therefrom.
The disciple James confirms the fact that the Christian should keep himself unspotted from the world and its schemes. In fact, he goes farther and states that those who profess to be Christ’s followers and who have illicit relationship with the present system of things constitute themselves enemies of God. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”—Jas. 1:27; 4:4, AV.
It should be apparent, therefore, that the Christian has no obligation to support the schemes of worldly-wise men for the betterment of this old world. His obligation is outlined in his commission, as set forth at Isaiah 61:1-3 (AV). We are now living in “the day of vengeance of our God.” Within the lifetime of the present generation Jehovah will execute his vengeance against all unrighteousness, including the present wicked system of things. But first he has a warning sounded to give to all who ‘sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in Christendom’ an opportunity for preservation. (Ezek. 9:4, AV) Such ones are to have a mark upon their foreheads, not a literal mark, but an intellectual understanding of Jehovah’s purposes.
This educational work is now in progress. It is a world-wide work and is carried forward in 164 different countries. All who appreciate its urgency have certainly no time to dabble in the hundred and one schemes of men for the betterment of the old world. Those who can arrange their affairs will follow the example set 1900 years ago and ‘abandon their nets.’ They will have a burning desire to spend all their time in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. To them nothing could be of greater importance than their work of preaching. Accordingly, their slogan is similar to Paul’s, namely, “This one thing I do.” Others, who may have Scriptural obligations to provide for wife and small children, may not be able to devote their entire time and energy to their preaching activity. But they too, as dedicated servants of the Most High, know that their chief purpose in life is to preach the good news of salvation by him.
What does it matter if the worldly-wise say that they are not practical and that their preaching activity is a waste of time. Their commission is from Jehovah. Hence they will continue to sound the warning of this world’s impending destruction and share in the fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Thereafter God’s new world of righteousness will be established under the beneficent reign of Christ Jesus. All the evils to which men have been subject in the past, and which they have been unable to rectify by their own efforts, will be gone. Satan himself will be abyssed and obedient men will be able to enjoy endless life on the paradise earth. Jehovah’s way and purpose in saving many by the ‘foolishness of preaching’ will be completely vindicated.