Last week, Miami teenager, Penelope Soto, was arrested on drug charges and appeared before Judge Rodriguez-Chomat for sentencing on Thursday. She seemed to be oblivious to the seriousness of her predicament as she giggled and played with her hair through the whole proceeding. When the Hispanic judge dismissed her after setting $5000 in bail, she laughed again and said “Adios!” before spinning around and walking off. The judge took a second to comprehend her attitude, called her back and doubled her bail. The shocked teen was angry at the judge’s response and as she turned to leave the room, she hurled an explicative and gave him an obscene gesture. This time the judge called her back again and added 30 days in the county jail to her sentence. She has since apologized to him and had her sentence commuted, but the video of her disrespectful attitude set the online community ablaze and stirred many to condemn her completely inappropriate behavior in court. I agree that her actions were unacceptable, but I wasn’t particularly surprised when I saw her acting this way. With attitudes like this reaching near epidemic levels in our country, the internet continues to show us that her outburst isn’t an isolated one. Today people of all ages flaunt their bad behavior and even boast about what they can get away with. As we see this kind of thing happening more and more frequently, you can’t help but wondering why so many have such little respect for authority anymore. What’s happened to cause such attitudes to explode in our culture?
The answer to that question isn’t bad parenting, drugs or violence in the media. Those are only the inevitable consequences of a society that has rejected God. Virtually all of the civility we respect and hold dear finds its roots in the God of the Bible, but since our country by public policy has for decades jettisoned a reliance on the Scriptures, is it any wonder morality and common decency has declined as well? Today it seems that “Thou shalt not” has morphed into “Why not,” and without biblical anchors to hold us in place, there’s little anyone can point to that will stop moral deterioration. People still hope to enjoy the fruits of righteousness without embracing the Author of it, and that, of course, will never work.
It would be easy to look at all the news stories and be really discouraged about the direction our country is headed. Rationally, it seems there isn’t anything that will stop further decline, but fortunately, Scripture has already given us guidance for what believers are to do in a culture that tries to ignore God.
Jesus’ teachings were usually directed to a small band of Jewish followers mired in a culture of religious legalism under the control of the hedonistic and corrupt government of Rome. They were in the extreme minority, and logically, had no possibility of making any difference in a society filled with the corruption and wickedness that such power creates. Yet, still, He told them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18) and to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) And you know what? They took that command seriously! Wherever they went, the Gospel went with them, and little by little, it altered the society in which they lived. Today all that’s left of the Roman Empire are a few decaying building and museum artifacts, however the Gospel still spreads and is still changing lives.
Christ’s instruction to make disciples and to be His witnesses remains our command today. So just because we see the rising tide of darkness on the edge of our world, it’s not a time for giving up or wringing our hands in desperation. Despite what the news media would have us to believe, Christianity is not on the decline or in danger of being sidelined. In fact, there are many encouraging reports about the expansion of the Gospel in the US, South America, Africa and China.. But even if every news outlet and article in the world told us a different story, we would still have reason to optimistic. Our faith isn’t in what we can see with our eyes. (2 Cor. 5:7) Our faith is in the promise of God, and He said, “the gates of hell will not prevail” against His church. (Matt. 16:18) It’s important to understand what Christ was saying here. He wasn’t picturing the church as standing motionless as evil forces relentlessly attack, as many people assume He’s saying in this verse. “Gates” aren’t offensive in nature. They don’t move or advance. Instead, they are designed for defense. Jesus depicts the gates of hell as unable to withstand the battering ram of the Gospel, and crumbling before the forceful proclamation that He is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt. 16:16) Don’t miss this! We are not on the defensive, and we’re not just trying to “hold ground.” God’s kingdom is advancing!! And as we take part in the offensive, our righteous living and fearless testimony can and will influence society for good!
When you feel down and discouraged about the direction of things around you, don’t forget that, as a believer, how you live makes a difference! Spreading the Gospel by word and action is still the method by which God chooses to effect change… first in us, and then in those around us.. While public policy may continue to trend away from biblical moorings, it’s our responsibility to be like the early disciples, and follow through on God’s commands. It’s up to each of us to make a daily decision to live boldly for Christ so His fame spreads throughout the world!