If the West is a sinking ship, do we jump overboard and try to save whoever we can in the process? Or should we aim at keeping the ship afloat?
Can Jesus save the West? This is a question I have wrestled with for a long time — both before and since writing a book that asks this question as its subtitle.
To ask if Jesus can save a civilisation is not a question of individual salvation, but of cultural and social renewal. In other words, can Jesus rescue a society and reform it to be the very best it can be for everyone?
Of course, Jesus’ mission to earth was the salvation of sinners, not societies. But history is clear that when Jesus changes enough hearts and minds, this cannot help but transform whole cultures.
Jesus Save Us From Our Timidity
Sadly, we Western Christians have become quite wary of making a case for the positive benefits Christianity brings to the culture. The more secular our society has become, the more we have learned to keep our spiritual opinions and activities safe within the four walls of the church.
Many Christians have adopted the mindset that while saving individual souls is still our mission, the culture itself can go to hell. If the West is a sinking ship, the common instinct is to jump overboard and save a few people in hopes that we might salvage the reputation of Jesus.
Let’s be clear: if the West does sink, the church will continue on just fine. Jesus is bigger than any civilisation, and He has promised to be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Having said this, Christians do have a permanent mandate from God to do all we can to benefit the society live in, even when things are looking really bad.
What Loving the West Looks Like
As believers living in the West, we’re called to love the West, and in very practical ways. Like the exiles in Babylon, God calls us to “work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
In the New Testament we see this command repeated. “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:2).
Returning to the analogy of a ship, loving the West doesn’t mean soaking up the sun and indulging in the luxuries of the cruise until the ship goes down. Rather, it means “all hands on deck” and doing whatever we can to keep our civilisation afloat.
If we are successful and the West is spared, it won’t just be the church that continues to enjoy freedom, safety and justice—it will be everyone. The West is a ship that has provided safety, welfare, refuge, affluence and opportunity to record numbers of people. It’s a good civilisation to want to save.
Salt, Light and a City on a Hill
We shouldn’t throw up our hands and think it’s all up to God. I like what William Booth said, the founder of the Salvation Army: “I am not waiting for a move of God; I am a move of God.”
Wherever we go, we become a move of God when we obey the command of Jesus to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. As Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
The role of the church is not to preserve the kingdoms of this world — it is to advance the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” As His followers, we are citizens of heaven, not earth.
But Jesus also said that “the Kingdom of God is already among you” — within us; within our grasp.
As we seek first the kingdom of God, it cannot help but have tangible results on the world around us. We will be like light that shines in the darkness and shows others the way; like salt that heals, flavours, cleans and preserves our civilisation, for the benefit of everyone.
For a limited time, Kurt’s book Cross and Culture: Can Jesus Save the West? is on sale for $19.95. Check it out here.
Image by Martin Adams on Unsplash.