“Our culture is looking for solutions that are not coming, because we are dealing with things of the heart. We need to reflect the hope that comes form God”, Peter Roskam says.
This has been a year of elections in many countries all over the world. Politicians have lost the trust of the voters, who are overwhelmed by the future, and long for real solutions.
How can Christians be salt and light to their cultural context? How can they make an impact today in an environment where cultural assumptions are changing quickly?
According to Peter Roskam, who served for twenty-five years in elected office in the United States, “we have to be the ones who recognise that we know from where our hope comes, and we need to be reflecting that hope”.
“As Christians of the 21st century, we are interacting in a political sphere that has been endorsed by the Lord, but also limited by the Lord”, he said in an interview for the European Leadership Forum in Wisla, Poland.
Roskam stressed that “our culture is finding itself increasingly looking for solutions that are not coming, because so many of the situations we are dealing with, are things of the heart”.
“Christians shouldn't give up on the state, because we are stewards of our citizenship, of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us, and, like any other gift that has been given to us, we have to use that gift for its highest and best purpose”, he added.
Read the interview below.
Question. What is God's purpose for government?
Answer. God's purpose for government is to restrain evil and to create order, as this is as old as the Garden. As free people in a free society, most of us have an incredible responsibility not to resit from that.
We have a voice, we have a vote, we have the ability to interact, and to choose our leaders, which is just a remarkable thing. Therein lies this great gift, and although many people are feeling overwhelmed by the nature of things right now, they ought not to feel overwhelmed, it is a great opportunity.
Q. How should Christians relate to their government?
A. Christians should relate to their government by being active, by choosing to participate, and by being the kind of people who are wise about it, but not cynic. There is so much cynicism now in our culture, at a very different levels.
I am not suggesting for a second that people should be naïve, but cynicism is very, very dark - and it does not end well. We are not called to cynicism.
Many of us come from political traditions and political cultures that have a real brightness to them, and I think part of the challenge is we fail to put these things into a historical perspective.
The types of freedoms that many of us have enjoyed are total outlier. They are not outlier historically, they are not outlier geographically, and yet we would think that we are just completely overtaken and overwhelmed right now, and it is not true.
We have a responsibility as Christians, to be the ones who recognise that we know from where our hope comes, and we need to be reflecting that hope.
Q. What contemporary errors did Jesus correct in his ministry?
A. If you look at the Gospel of Mark, it opens with the adult ministry of Jesus. There are three main categories where the activity of Jesus falls into: he teaches, he heals, and he corrects.
The correction is particularly interesting, we can look at times when Jesus said to the Pharisees: you do not understand what marriage was all about, you were given divorce because your hearts were hard, but here is what marriage was to be.
And to His own disciples, He said: treat children this way, I am welcoming them. There is example after example; he also taught reverence, when He upturned the money-changers and said that that was not the way that you suppose to conduct yourselves.
He taught obedience in a new way, he taught about the Sabbath in a new way... and He taught about government in a new way.
When He said: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, that was an incredible provocative thing. Lord Acton, in 1877, said of this that with that one phrase, He gave the approval on government and limitations on government at the same time.
I think that is where we find ourselves now, as Christians of the 21st century, we are interacting in a sphere that has been endorsed by the Lord, but also limited by the Lord.
Q. Why shouldn't Christians give up on the state?
A. Christians shouldn't give up on the state, because we are stewards of our citizenship, we are stewards of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us, and, like any other gift that has been given to us, we have the responsibility to use that gift for its highest and best purpose.
Q. How can Christians influence society in an anti-Christian age?
A. We are in a culture that is increasingly hostile to absolute claims and to claims of faith, so that we have a work to do.
The good news is that we do not have to figure all this out, this problem is the Lord´s problem, and He is inviting us to be with Him in His journey, which is a journey of redemption.
We are called to faithfully reflect those things that, through revelation, we know are true.
Our culture is finding itself increasingly looking for solutions that are not coming, because so many of the situations we are dealing with, are things of the heart, and if hearts can change, then, cultures can change.
ABOUT PETER ROSKAM
Peter Roskam served for twenty-five years in elected office in the United States, including six terms in the US House of Representatives where he served in the Congressional Leadership.
He chaired three Congressional subcommittees and was involved with a wide range of legislative action on tax policy, healthcare, IRS reform, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Benghazi investigation.
He chaired the bipartisan US House Democracy Partnership, sits on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy, and was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago.
He and his wife Elizabeth, an accomplished oil painter, have been married for 30 years and have four adult children.