Shall We Force Them To Do Right With Boycotts, Etc.?

By Kenneth E. Thomas

Recently on a radio call-in program supported by a local church of Christ, the movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” was discussed. If the movie does indeed portray our Savior as only a man who was guilty of fornication (or any sin for that matter) as it is reported to do, I certainly want to raise my voice against such a portrayal of the Son of God as much as any other Christian who believes in the sinless perfection of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15; etc.). One caller asked the host of the program if he did not agree that those who did not write letters of protest to the theaters who were showing the film were guilty before God of bidding God speed to their error? Neither of the hosts disagreed with the caller and one agreed that those who do not are guilty of sin. They based their conclusions on Ephesians 5:11 and 2 John 9-11.

Not By Carnal Warfare

I suggest that these brethren are as wrong as they can be! If they are correct then Jesus did indeed sin because, if we are duty bound before God to lead protest marches and letter writing campaigns and other economic means of forcing such people to give up said practices, Jesus had the responsibility to lead protests and letter writing campaigns against the many immoral places such as the brothels and other ungodly places in the Roman Empire which were operating during his time here on earth. Yet, you never read in Scripture nor in secular history that he ever so conducted himself, nor required such of his disciples, but rather said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would My servants right” (Jn. 18: 36). When Peter was defending Jesus against his captors in Gethsemane with carnal means, drawing Ins sword and cutting off the ear of Malcus, a servant of the Jewish high priest, Jesus said to Peter, “Put up your sword” (Matt. 26:52; Jn. 18:11).

One of the greatest Christians ever, Paul, an apostle of Christ writing by divine inspiration stated, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). When brethren attempt to reform the world by economic boycotts or use other pressure tactics and carnal weapons, they become guilty themselves of violating the scriptural way of advancing the cause of Christ, the proclamation of his word to a sin-sick world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Men and women must first be converted to Christ then taught how to live for him. To try to force the world to live by the will of Christ through whatever the means, is to be guilty of “casting your pearls before the swine (unconverted, ket) . . . they will only turn and rend you” (Matt. 7:6).

The Social Gospel

We (who call ourselves “conservative”) stand opposed to the “social gospel” approach of attempting to convert folks to Christ as unscripturally trying to change society using physical, rather than spiritual, means to that desired end, the preaching of the truth of the gospel, God’s drawing, saving, and transforming power (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Rom. 1:16-17; Col. 3:14; Rom. 12:1-2). Then some turn around and attempt to force society into conforming to the will of Christ by using all manner of pressure tactics. Brethren, this is practicing the social gospel just as surely as are the folks who offer all manner of physical enticements to get people to become Christians! My brethren who oppose the social gospel should know better than this!

Change The World By Changing The Man

You’ve probably heard the story of the man trying to put a jigsaw puzzle of the world together without success. His young son, knowing that on the back side of the puzzle was the picture of a man; turned the pieces over and put together the picture of a man. Then he turned the puzzle over and the world was also intact. “See, Dad, when you get the man straight the world’s alright too, exclaimed the lad.” How true! We need to be busy teaching the truth. We should refuse to view obscene movies and read pornographic literature or listen to filthy lyrics of any music, whether country, pop, or rock and roll so far as our own habits are concerned. We must instill in our offspring the same principles since we are responsible to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Get Into Their Homes

If only more Christians were in the homes of our friends, relatives, and associates engaged in Bible study classes telling them of the Savior of all mankind, we could have a much greater impact on society than we are at present, and we would not have time to picket the smut peddlers. We would convert them to Christ if possible and then they would not buy, view, or sell such garbage.

They Get Free Advertisement

Recently on TV someone connected with the controversial film under discussion, said, “All of this opposition by Christians will assure us of a box office boom.” We should work as leavening in flour in society, gently and quietly affecting those whom our lives touch; we should preach against the film certainly. We should reprove, rebuke and exhort every kind of error, but force unbelievers? No!

If as an advocated in the radio program under consideration we must get involved in trying to. force people not to show this film, we must do the same wherever alcohol is sold or where gambling is practiced, etc. Consistency would demand us to use the same measures against all ungodliness. But as already pointed out, our roll should be to preach the powerful word of Jesus to a lost and sin-cursed world and leave the results up to the Lord (1 Cor. 3:6; Acts 8:4; 1 Thess. 1:8-10).

It is possible that a kind well-written letter to the proper ones who could control the production and distribution of things which any thinking person must know can have a detrimental effect on society, could do some good and I am not opposed to such. I do not however believe that one must write such a letter or be guilty of sin. Certainly if we try to run people out of business by getting to their pocketbooks rather than their hearts, more harm than good will result.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 3, pp. 79, 87
February 2, 1989