Repentance and Christ-Exalting Civic Engagement

There is no clear dividing line between biblical repentance and Christ-exalting civic engagement.

By repentance I mean turning from unbelief and sin, and trusting in Jesus as Savior, Lord, and supreme Treasure of your life.

By civic engagement I mean making efforts in the secular public sphere for the sake of a more just and loving social order in the name of Jesus Christ who is Lord of all things.

But while all Bible-believing people agree that God has issued a global call to every person in the name of Jesus to repent, it is not as clear what this means for Christ-exalting civic engagement.

Paul’s sermon in Athens ended like this:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31).

So this is clear: The representatives of Christ on earth should tell everyone, as effectively as we can, that they will be judged by God through Jesus Christ, and that they should repent and receive his offer of amnesty (the Gospel) before it is too late.

But once the repentance train is moving, there is no line that says, stop here and don’t do repentance in public.

Repentance involves turning away from sin and doing what’s right. “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

What kind of fruit? Fruit like this (Luke 3:11-14):

  • Whoever has two tunics  is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.
  • Collect no more than you are authorized to do.
  • Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your  wages.

We are not all called to engage in the same way. But it seems clear to me that the universal call to repentance is a universal call to Christ-exalting civic engagement.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.