By Force or By Grace

Llewellyn Martin

Christian Living

2020 will be etched in our minds for years. It felt like things were forced on us in a way we never previously experienced. We were forced to wear masks. Forced to stay at home. Forced to have church at home. In numerous cities across the nation, BLM activists used force to try to get their message across to the nation. Then the 2020 elections started. There were reports of poll watchers being forced to stay way back from their posts. President Trump began to argue that the election was taken by force and was fraudulent. Numerous lawyers started to use force to try to expose where they thought the fraud had taken place. Some people thought that Trump should concede. Others thought he should use more force to control the nation before the far left took control of the country. Some people finally got so fed up that they stormed the Capitol during the electoral vote trying to get their point across.
As I watched the elections unfold, I had mixed emotions. On one side, I secretly wished that Trump would use force to take control because I trusted his policies more than I trusted where the radical left had gone in the summer of 2020. On the other side, I had to surrender to God’s will and realize that He was in control and that He had a plan for the world, and neither Trump nor Biden were going to stop Him. In His sovereignty, He lifts up and takes down world leaders to accomplish His plan.
Through it all, it very much felt like there was a battle between good and evil. On the far left, you had people trying to erase US history and tear down the morals in our country. On the far right, you had people trying to bring back American patriotism and good morals. But interestingly, both were trying to shape the country by using force. One was more violent but both tried to use the government to accomplish their agenda.
While we as Christians may have benefited from Trump using force to control the country, would it really have done much good? Yes, the economy may have grown. Our religious freedoms would probably have been strengthened. But how many people would have decided to be Christians? How many people would have been challenged to grow in their Christian life? Is force the answer for the United States?
My mind goes to the apostle Paul. He was a strong religious person trying to advance “God’s Kingdom” using force until God stopped him in his tracks and showed him that he was going against God instead of for Him. Paul changed course and started working to build God’s Kingdom. But how did he do it? By lobbying the government to change the laws to make people Christian? Did he try to elect politicians to help force Christian principles on the country? Did he use lawsuits to try to prove that his way was right? No, he started preaching.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ (Acts 9:20-22).
Paul preached salvation by grace. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). He preached the power of the cross, For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God (1Co 1:18). He preached death to self. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Rom 8:13). He preached life in Christ. Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (Rom 6:4,8). He preached about Jesus’ return. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1Th 4:17).
Paul first tried to change the world by force, but the church just spread and grew despite his efforts. He then preached how the gospel could change the world, and it worked. God used him in a powerful way to help build the Kingdom of God that long outlived any of the governments that were in power in his day. It is nice when the government uses force to keep a sinner in check. But it is miraculous when God can take the same sinner and change them into a saint who can live a life of holiness to God.
Are you hoping the government will change our country for good? Or are you preaching the Gospel of Christ that can change people forever?

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