Protectionism is a word used to describe an economic policy of restraining trade between countries. It is a policy advocated by those who believe that startup industries need to be protected. The argument against economic protectionism is that this mentality actually hurts those it is meant to “protect.”
I’m no economist, but I see this “protectionist” mentality within the Church (myself included). I believe that it is ultimately hurting us all more than it is helping us.
Christian protectionism, quite often, is nothing more than fear-driven faith. It is the belief that outside influence could overtake my family, my thoughts, my purity, and my life.
The fatal flaw in this outlook is the belief that I am protected as long as I keep outside influence outside. The chink in the armor of Christian protectionism is this: evil is already inside! The Bible declares in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.”
I am the problem.
In 1907 The Times of London newspaper posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?”
G.K. Chesterton responded, “I am.”
I will not be able to protect myself from something that is already in me. This does not excuse sin in me or in the world. But it does remind me that it is inexcusable to think that there are good people and bad people. The Gospel reminds me there is only One who is good, and that is God.
So how should the Gospel change the way we interact with those who are in sin or even promoting sin?
1. Avoid protectionism
When Jesus ascended into heaven, after the resurrection, He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Our call as Christians is to be initiators not simply defenders. We are meant to go into darkness and preach the light of Christ.
Avoiding protectionism means avoiding a fear-based faith. Yes, the world is a dark place, and yes it is overwhelming, but let’s not forget: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b). Let’s not build religious fortresses around ourselves.
2. Avoid the “us vs. them” mentality
The more we embrace the Gospel the less contrast we will see between “sinners” and “Christians.” I am not saved because I am a good person or even because I have rejected certain lifestyles. I am saved by the grace of God.
Gospel-centered Christians loves homosexuals, Muslims, atheists, and anybody else that scares us. Gospel-centered Christianity recognizes that sinners sin (even Christian sinners). It doesn’t make sin ok but until we fully embrace our own guilt we will look down on others.
3. Give the Gospel top priority
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, (Romans 9:1-3).
The Jews were the ones trying to kill Paul. They were some of his biggest detractors and yet he loved them so much.
“This great passion for souls gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing - the souls of men. Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out” (Charles Spurgeon).
I get bogged down by “little griefs” too. How about you? Have you let “little griefs” take top priority in your life? It’s time for us to come back to what matters most and that is the Gospel.
We already know the end of the story- God wins. We don’t have to be afraid and isolate ourselves. Make every interaction about the Gospel. Make your passion the Gospel and smaller issues will remain small.
4. Don’t be self-deceived
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Galatians 6:1-3).
Helping others doesn’t make us better than them. Let us not forget that.
The world is a wicked place. We are reminded of this everyday. I want nothing more than to protect my family, my church and myself from the evils that are out there. This isn’t wrong but it needs to be tempered with the reminder that evil is already inside the gates! The answer has always been to throw myself upon the mercies of God. He is more gracious than I will ever comprehend.