Living as Christ’s Ambassadors in the World
Living in a world where moral norms are continuously shifting, Pastor Eugene urges us to respond by being faithful ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
The Indian Supreme Court’s recent decision to repeal a law against consensual homosexual sex has reignited public debate here about whether Singapore should do likewise. There have been renewed calls urging the government to revoke Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sex between men. Those on the opposite side of the issue have also been petitioning to retain the section.
Amidst all of this, the Church is pressed to “take a stand” on this issue. As those who have been called to be salt and light in the world, Christians cannot afford to be either ignorant or indifferent about the social issues we face.
Let’s first be clear about the facts. The Penal Code was enacted in 1871 when Singapore was under Britain’s colonial administration. It mirrored India’s Penal Code.
Around two weeks ago, the Penal Code Review Committee submitted its report to the government, calling for wide-ranging changes that focus on strengthening laws on sexual and abuse offences to protect women and vulnerable victims—such as the elderly, children and domestic helpers. This was the first major review in more than a decade.
The government had made clear from the start that the review would not cover Section 377A. The law will continue to stand although, generally, it has not been enforced in cases of private conduct. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said recently that it is up to Singapore society to decide what to do with the section. He noted: “Singapore ... on this issue, it is a deeply split society. The majority oppose to any change to Section 377A—they are opposed to removing it. A minority—I have to say, a growing minority—want it to be repealed. The government is in the middle.”
So it looks like Section 377A will remain, for now at least. But some are worried about the future. As the moral norms of society continue to shift, what will happen then? And, in the meantime, how should we respond if we are to be faithful ambassadors for Jesus Christ in the world?
1. We must keep the gospel the main thing
Confronted with social changes, we may be tempted to focus more on confronting the culture than on proclaiming Christ. Mission drift is a real danger. We must be clear that the church’s mission is to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel clearly and courageously. We are stewards of God’s truth and we have a charge to faithfully teach and live according to God’s word. Our mission is not to campaign for the preservation of “Christian morality” in society.
What lost people truly need are not stricter laws but an all-surpassing Saviour. We cannot expect the world to abide by the moral ethics of the Bible if it does not first know the Redeemer who laid down His life for sinners like us. Let Galatians 2:16 sink deeply into our hearts: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
Christians may also be tempted to adopt an anxious, siege mentality. We wring our hands and lose confidence, because we feel helpless to stem the tide. We fear the loss of influence. But it is not a bad thing to confess our inability. This is precisely why we need Jesus and His gospel. God is weaning us off our dependence on worldly wisdom and power. God’s people are constantly tempted to return to Egypt. But we should instead look to Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. He alone is Lord and Saviour. We must be unashamed of His gospel, because it is God’s power to save. Only Christ is able to transform a rebel against God into a worshiper who gladly bows the knee. As Paul tells the Corinthian Christians: “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9b-11)
Amen! Indeed, such were some of us. But God has rescued us from darkness and brought us into His kingdom of light. He now sends us into the world, not as champions of “Christian values”, but as ambassadors for Christ, who share in His suffering and proclaim His glorious grace. Are we willing to embrace strangeness as we speak of Jesus to a culture that appears to be trending post-Christian? Are we willing to be winsome witnesses for Christ in the world? Are we willing to work harder to explain that sin is not merely immorality, but it is a failure to worship the perfectly loving God who made us to know and enjoy Him forever? Are we willing to humbly and patiently explain that we are all sinners saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and not by our own morality?
2. We must ask God for help to live wisely and humbly in the world
The call to gospel faithfulness does not mean that we disengage from the culture. God has placed each one of us, as individual Christians, in different homes, schools and workplaces. As citizens, we have a responsibility to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and to seek the welfare of the city. We are called to do good in the world, in a way that glorifies Christ and adorns the gospel. We need wisdom from God to do so.
We should also show love and grace towards one another. Thorny social issues have the potential to be deeply divisive. Faithful, Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians can differ on how to best engage the culture. Some of us may have good reasons to sign petitions; others may have good reasons not to. We must not allow such differences to divide us. We need God’s help to live humbly in the world and with one another. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10-12)
Therefore, we are to live faithfully and humbly as Christ’s ambassadors in the world. Ultimately, God’s people are looking forward to receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This passing world is not our home, for we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Because of this unshakeable hope, we can be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labour is not in vain.
This Sunday, we will hear from 1 John 2:12-17 about how God’s people are to live in the world. Let’s ask God to soften our hearts to His truth. May God help us to continually grow in our love for Him!