Last week’s Australian newspaper included a timely and welcome article on the relevance of the Bible in shaping western civilisation. Most pre-Easter media references to Christianity are typically laden with cynicism and reinterpretation. Drawing from his recent book, “God is Good for You,” Greg Sheridan showed that the writing of the New Testament actually did much to advance the cause of women in a patriarchal society. This became just one of the many virtues of a faith that, though imperfectly modelled by all too many, is still as relevant as ever.
In addition, The Bible In Australia and The Book That Made Your World showcase great examples of social transformation made possible by the advance of Christianity. Books such as The Case for Christ and Evidence that Demands a Verdict are among many the prove the validity and reliability of the New Testament, as does the globally popular Alpha Course.
Here are just three examples of the relevance of that faith which are good to be reminded of over Easter. Comments opposing the Australian Prime Minister’s recognition of the Christian basis of the season this week show that some have come to regard it as little more than an occasion for indulging in chocolate and holidays.
1. Christianity is relevant to addressing gender inequity
A well-known Bible passage, now less popular at Christian weddings than in the past, is found in Ephesians 5, where verse 22 encourages wives to submit to husbands. Despite the text going on to adjure husbands to love their wives, the focus has been on the former instruction, deemed misogynistic by some.
Instead, the text was most likely intended to help shape improved first century attitudes toward women. Noting that it commences with an instruction for all Christians to submit to each other, it reads as if to say that women would therefore naturally submit to husbands as an example of this mutual submission, whereas husbands would demonstrate their own commitment in a particularly counter-cultural way. When a patriarchal society deemed women little more than a chattel of their marriages, to be owned and commanded by their husbands, Paul’s instruction proved confrontational in asking men to be proactive in following the sacrifical example of Christ.
2. Christianity is relevant to addressing social injustice
One reason why slavery is not outrightly condemned in the New Testament, or battle violence in the Old, is because God typically instructs people in a context that would be unlikely to accept holistic change. Inching progress forward, one radical instruction at a time, He transformed what rightly seem like barbaric practices today.
Similarly, the specific instruction to men was not to require that they exercise the ‘headship’ that was also affirmed in the passage. Rather, they were to love according to the model of their own head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who demonstrated love by laying down His life.
Injustices are seldom overturned by directive instruction, and the influential means by which Christianity has undergirded our legal, financial and education systems has played a vital part in differentiating between the advantages of many western democracies when compared with alternative systems of government.
3. Christianity is relevant to personal redemption
This Easter, we are again reminded that the sacrifice of Jesus was to substitute His perfection for our imperfection, His righteousness for our unrighteousness. His death was the key to our salvation, but needs to be appropriated by personal surrender to His desired direction of our lives.
We naturally wish to be thankful at this time of the year in the knowledge that we could not, as people living apart from God, come back into favour with him on merit. In the grace of God, we received undeserved favour by which Jesus died in our place to ransom our lives. A Christian is any person who responds by following Him with the responsive obedience that demonstrates gratitude for a life fully restored.
This Easter, I remain just as optimisitic as ever that our nation’s best days are ahead as we choose to return to a life based on the values and virtues that have proven their success over time. Notwithstanding the examples of mistreatment and injustice sometimes in evidence in those who have lived beneath such ideals, we have a perfect post-COVID opportunity to recalibrate and reassert the benefits of that transformative faith in making an inclusive pitch to a world that still needs the love and grace of Jesus today.