An article on Monday reported a speech given by the US Attorney General, William Barr at Notre Dame Law School last Friday. Caleb Parke reported (FoxNews, 10.14.19), that the Attorney General ‘blasted “militant secularists” and their attacks on Judaeo-Christian values…’

According to the report Barr observed that “the problem is not that religion is being forced on others, the problem is that irreligion is being forced – secular values are being forced on people of faith”.

According to the report, Barr said that “Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives.” “But”, Barr asked, “ Where is the progress? We are told we are living in a post-Christian era, but what has replaced the Judaeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the heart of the individual person? And what is the system of values that can sustain human social life?”

In this age of change, how should the Christian community respond? Two thoughts come to mind – the first I will take up today; the second, next Wednesday.

First, we have Jesus’ words in his Sermon on the Mount that his followers are to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world (Matthew 5:13-15). Significantly, Jesus continued: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”(5:16).

‘Everything you are, everything you do,’ Jesus says to everyone who claims to follow him, ‘must reflect all that I have taught you. Your lifestyle, as well as honoring God, will also draw others to the truth.’ This is an awesome thought. All of us are called upon to reflect the light of God in our lives to the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer remarked: ‘Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.’ 

It’s important to remember the world in which Christianity was born. In his First Letter, Peter writes to people who were experiencing intolerable oppression. Yet he says: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  

Although Peter speaks of his readers, as ‘resident aliens’ in this world, he says that their lifestyle can draw others to God’s truth. Abstain from the sinful desires which wage war against your soul, he writes.

He is speaking of the desires of our hearts that are out of step with the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount – lies, false-witness, anger, greed, theft, the lustful look, the adulterous relationship – anything that stands against the mind of God.

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French philosopher wrote: ‘Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is just to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show them that it is.’

In our changing world, let’s resolve, by God’s grace, to play our part in his unfinished task of searching for and rescuing the lost. So, we need to help one another identify the flaws of today’s morality. We need to help others see the logical inconsistency of making tolerance the value that determines all values – that tolerance and moral objectivity can coincide.

What is more, we need to expose the lie that the centre of truth is the self – Me! We need to show our family and friends that we do not live in a world without a moral compass, a world in which all opinions are as valid as each other. Whether we like it or not, when people come to know that we are Christian they will look at us. They want to know whether we are genuine, whether what we profess is true, for underneath all the cries for tolerance, the cries to do what it takes to get what I want, there is a cry for help.

Too often our own lives reflect the narcissism of our culture. Like lost sheep we go astray, following the devices and desires of our own hearts rather than heeding the voice of God. We fail to be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’.

Let’s plan to confess our sins to God daily, with truly repentant hearts and, knowing the Lord’s forgiveness, resolve by his grace to press on in the new life he has given us. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”