Christian Behavior and Activism
1 Cor. 5:9-13 makes it clear that we can and will “rub elbows” with unbelievers who, of course, do evil things, but that we should not associate with those who practice evil but call themselves believers. Even Jesus associated with the dregs of society, but he only had condemnation for those who were self-righteous, because they did evil while pretending to be holy. Yes, we may get a bad reputation for associating with unbelievers, but how else could we witness to them? So the big question is, where do we draw the line on what Christians can do?
From Romans 14 we see an important general principle: that we must act in love and not demand our rights if it might cause a “weaker brother” to fall. 1 Peter 2:12 gives another general principle: that we should live such good lives that no one, believer or not, can criticize us. We are all to strive for the highest, not to look for what we can get away with. Even so, there are areas where Christians are in sharp disagreement, such as social drinking,dancing, styles of music or fashion, eating meat, playing cards, etc. Some believe the Bible absolutely forbids one or more of those things, while others believe the Bible allows them.
Wherever there is controversy over a subject, we should do whatever is the most considerate thing, not just what is permissible. But those who abstain must not look down on those who don’t. Far greater sins are committed by Christians who criticize their fellow believers than by those who drink or dance or gamble. We must remember that we are all in a process of growth, and that we do not all have the same measure of faith*. Of course, things concerning salvation and things the Bible expressly condemns are not a matter of opinion. But if we must guess on which way to lean concerning a certain gray area, follow this rule: if it’s about my own behavior, err on the side of abstinence; if it’s about someone else’s behavior, err on the side of tolerance.
Some Christians feel that everything a believer does must be openly evangelistic. In other words, there is no room for neutrality. The Bible says that everything we do should glorify God, but that doesn’t mean it must be blatantly religious. I can glorify God by keeping my room clean, but I’m not making an evangelistic statement by doing so. The idea is that Christian living should do no dishonor to God (1 Peter 2:12).
* The Bible describes as having “weak faith” those who feel something is forbidden even though the Bible says it’s ok. But if one with weak faith goes ahead and violates his conscience because someone else knows it’s ok, for the one with weak faith it is sin! On the other hand, if one with “strong faith” flaunts his freedom in front of a weaker brother, he causes him to sin. Be careful!
Should Christians participate in marches, boycotts, sit-ins, etc.? Should we hold political offices, or join in secular ventures with unbelievers?
Notice that Jesus never organized a rebellion or even a mild criticism of the Roman government, which was known to be at least as evil and corrupt as any other. His only critical words were for those who considered themselves righteous but had evil hearts. He did, however, tell his followers to spread the Gospel wherever they went. But most people did not quit their jobs when they were saved, even if they worked for the Roman government. He even told his disciples to pay civil taxes, which undoubtedly would be used at least partly for some evil purpose. The only riots or other civil disruptions the early believers were involved in were instigated by the enemies of the Gospel. And those believers “turned the world upside down” not by political means but simply by proclaiming the truth. But even Paul would use his political connections when necessary (Roman citizenship, which he did not renounce when he was saved).
In the USA it is legal to peacefully assemble, so as long as our motives are pure and we break no laws, marches and the like are acceptable. However, we must remember the difference between rebellion and protest: rebellion overthrows a government from the top down, but protest is a legal form of free speech. But we must not forget our primary means of changing the world: spreading the Gospel. Some Christians have allowed political ambitions and civil disruptions to be their focus, instead of love for lost souls.
Although going into business or other formal alliances with unbelievers is a controversial subject among Christians today, I personally believe it is wrong. Being “unequally yoked”, if you look at the context, is not about marriage but about alliances.