by John Basie
Some months ago I had the opportunity to lead a seminar for recent college graduates, all of whom had been following Christ faithfully for at least a few years. The focus of the seminar was the nexus of vocation, cultural transformation, and the role of grace. When I got to the part of the material that called for an introduction to the Manhattan Declaration and the opportunity we have as Christ-followers to make a difference in our culture, I immediately saw a variety of reactions. Some were energized, but some not so much. With respect to the latter, one young man piped up and basically said, “I went to a state university, and I know what most people on that campus think about marriage, sanctity of life, and religious liberty. Frankly, I just see what a lost cause it probably is, given the mindset out there today. I’m not sure it’s worth the battle.” I could immediately understand where he was coming from. He very much doubted that it was worth the risk of having hope, and he went on to say that his posture at present was to withdraw from these battles and focus on other worthy Kingdom pursuits.
In his work The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, The 18th century Scottish theologian and minister Thomas Chalmers once pointed out the difference between a practical moralist and one who has a deep sense morality that rests on a substantive hope only found in Christ. He said “There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world–either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.” To be sure, Chalmers was interested in exploring how Christ-followers actually come to be more like Christ and lay down their personal and communal sin, but the application here is clear enough. It isn’t sufficient to withdraw our affections from the bad stuff–we have to have something good that is far more powerful to fill the void. The young man who held the right convictions but had chosen to disengage hadn’t yet seen that expulsive power available to us and to our culture through a deep hope in Christ’s work. Millennials need to experience that deep and abiding hope for themselves. Theirs is the largest generation among us, and they will be leading all of us soon enough.