Much has been written about a recent Pew survey of religion in the United States. The survey shows that a growing number of people, especially young adults, no longer consider themselves members of a denomination. And where the numbers of Christians have declined, there is also growth in those who call themselves atheists and secularists. And twenty years ago, our nation would not have accepted the recent ruling that allows gay marriages.
These trends should give Christians a reason for alarm and a reason for purpose. We should be alarmed, especially for our young people. They are encountering relentless attacks on their faith through evolution, attacks on their morality through advocates of abortion and sexual freedom, and attacks on their character as hatemongers because of the issue of homosexuality.
Such attacks are especially troublesome for our youth because the very foundation of their faith—God’s Word—has been declared to be unreliable and out of date. For if no absolute truth exists, if truth is what each person believes, and if morality is determined by society, then what can the Bible say to the modern world?
The younger generations need protection from this impending disaster to the faith. Sunday School classes and two years of catechism instruction are not enough so that young people can remain steadfast in the true faith. Lutheran elementary schools and Bethany Lutheran College can help, but even more needs to be done through family devotions, weekly Bible classes, and youth programs.
While great majorities may follow the ways of the world, we need to understand what Jesus meant by saying, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39). Jesus came to a world darkened by unbelief to proclaim the light of God’s truth. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Jesus told the Pharisees, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Those who will not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who loved them and gave His life to save them, they will suffer under God’s justice—eternal death.
While we may be stunned by the apparent collapse of Christian morality in our society, we are not to conclude that: 1) there is no hope, 2) God’s Word is not true, 3) the Gospel is not the power of God, or 4) we can do nothing. God still gives our lives purpose in this world. Jesus has called us to be salt in the world. He has placed us in communities to be a light shining on a hill. God will continue to send out His Word to accomplish His purpose—convicting the world of sin and enlightening the hearts of many people. Just as the Gospel is working among pagan peoples in India, the Amazon jungle, and China, so the message of salvation will fulfill God’s purpose in our nation.
As we prepare for whatever future God wills, we would do well to study 1 Peter, which was written to people dealing with persecution. In that letter, Peter declares the unfading inheritance of heaven, the unfailing promises of God, our blessings as a chosen generation and a royal priesthood, and the steadfast love of doing God’s will amid evil. While we are to be vigilant against the “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), Peter reminds us, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). That crown of glory is a truth we can trust and a reality for which we can hope.
It has been a privilege to serve as editor of the Lutheran Sentinel these past twenty years. Thanks to God for whatever blessings the Lutheran Sentinel has given you. Thanks to the many people who have helped me and written articles. Thanks to you readers for your faithful support and interest in this magazine. May the Lord continue to bless the Gospel message in future issues under the editorship of the Rev. Paul Fries.