In an age of disruption, how can followers of Jesus respond in ways that exert influence toward relationship, reconciliation, and faith? Augustine authored “The City of God” at a time with numerous similarities to our own. Political, social, and theological turmoil raged, with accusations leveled at Christians for many of the ills of that day. In response, Augustine penned a two-part treatise answering the indictments and casting a compelling vision for faith in the God of the Bible over paganism and secularism.
The two-part structure of his book offers a sound way to respond to the polarization and vitriol of this day. Ed Stetzer titled our day as an “age of outrage.” Too often, believers respond in kind to the rants and the rage commonly expressed. “The City of God” first offers an apologetic born out of diverse fields of knowledge. Augustine articulates a defense of Christianity from philosophical, historical, sociological, and theological arguments. His broad knowledge base challenges us in a day more often specialized to be conversant in several disciplines. He addresses the issues of the time in explanatory, not defensive, ways. The tendency is to respond in kind when attacked or accused. Anger, however, offers no apologetic for faith or practice. Leaders are wise to stay calm and focused on the issues during opposition. At a time of history when everyone can speak or write on some platform, we need to do more than say or write something. Behavior validates or invalidates our statements. Sociologist Rodney Stark details the early church’s growth as not the result of positions of power or political influence but, rather, through actions that emerged from and demonstrated faith. At a time when everyone is talking, our actions speak louder than our words.
As an example of the impact of actions, our church began a ministry where people donate vehicles, volunteers fix them up and give them away to single mothers with no strings attached. The thought behind this effort was to afford serving opportunities to people with skills not usually exercised in the church. The results go far beyond people having an outlet for serving. People from all over the spiritual spectrum engage the ministry by giving time or money. Several people have come to faith through actions that seek to realize the values of compassion and love beyond words. A hurting culture longs for a positive alternative to culture.
Even more important and influential than a reasoned and demonstrated defense, a compelling vision for faith is needed in these disruptive days. Christians should be known not only for what they oppose but more so for what they affirm with faith and practice. Augustine contrasts the earthly city with the heavenly city, casting a vision for a life with God. “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by love of self. . .the heavenly by the love of God.” In this secular day, mankind occupies the highest level of meaning. Yet, people struggle with a lack of hope and purpose. The instinctive sense that we are made for more than ourselves leaves an emptiness and longing in the human soul. People can search for that meaning and how disappointing it would be to come to God’s people and His house and find anger, polarization, politicizing, and opposition rather than vision, much like what is heard elsewhere. How much more impactful can a vision speak with a positively different voice in a day like this?
I have been embarrassed by some Christians’ words, tone, and reaction to a darkening cultural reality in recent years. I fear the growth of a faux faith of Christian Nationalism, where God inhabits the platform of one political party and more hope resides in DC than in heaven. May we offer the “city of God” instead of the “earthly city.” A church moved to the margins of culture finds influence in a reasoned, visionary faith that positively contrasts this cultural moment.
 Ed Stetzer titled his 2018 book, “Christians in an Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst.”
 See “The Rise of Christianity,” especially chapter 4.
Augustine, The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods (Overland Park, KS: Digireads.com Publishing, 2017), 402.