My wife’s grandfather was a sheriff in the 1950s who fought in World War II. Before his death a couple of years ago, we’d sit down and he’d share stories from the war and the police force. In his later years, it was often the same story, but every time, it was as if he was sharing it for the first time.
One day, while serving in his community post-war, he came across a German woman walking down the street. They struck up a conversation, and grandpa asked her what she thought about Hitler. Apparently, this woman’s demeanor immediately changed, and she said, “I loved him!” As he retold the story, he’d always insert, “I couldn’t believe it” right about there. Then he said the woman exclaimed, “He [Hitler] didn’t kill enough Jews!” At this point he’d look us dead in the eye, and his voice would get soft as he concluded the story the same way, every time: We won the war, but we didn’t win their hearts.
Now, of course that was one very disturbed person that grandpa spoke with, but it left a profound imprint on his memory. His words have been ringing in my ears as I’ve thought about the leaked report that suggests the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. There’s no doubt a war is being waged right now in our culture, and the overturning of Roe is a victory for those who recognize the sanctity of life. We should give thanks to God any time civil servants administer justice, and protection for the vulnerable unborn is praiseworthy. Indeed, we should rejoice over this, just like the world rejoiced when the Nazis were defeated.
The goal of the civil government is to promote justice. Governing officials will give an account for how they ruled. They don’t determine what is just—God does—but they should administer justice in conformity to the general principles of his moral law. Whenever they do this it’s a “win,” but the Christian church should never be satisfied with winning that war. We’re not in a war for the culture, but for hearts. Yes, transformed hearts can affect cultural change—but cultural change without the gospel isn’t the church’s mission.
The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, Paul said. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Cultural conflicts are rooted in deeper spiritual realities (Eph. 6:12), and we should never settle for victories that leave people in spiritual bondage. I’m not saying we should be lackluster about headlines like this most recent one (far from it!); I’m saying that we, the church, should long for more. We don’t merely hope for the restraint of evil in society, but for the repentance of evildoers.
Pray that the injustice of abortion in the United States will one day be fully abolished. May God have mercy on us, and indeed, he has. I think of the dear sisters in Christ I know who have had abortions, or once promoted the doctrine of “choice,” but who experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Change for them came not through the ministers of the State, but ministers of the gospel. The establishment of just laws is no replacement for the good news that Jesus offers those who have committed injustices. The two are not in opposition, and we should rejoice over the first even while we long and pray for the second. There’s work yet to be done, and hearts which need to be won!