For example: Some critics point to the fact that, nearly 40 years on, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. Well, true enough. But does the failure to correct Roe mean that (a) the pro-life movement has accomplished nothing of value and/or that (b) Christians should shake the political dust off their feet and leave public stage entirely to unbelieving actors?

Since 1973, social conservatives have been effective in preventing federal funding of abortion services (until the president’s health care plan, that is), ending “partial-birth” abortion, enacting a measure to protect babies born alive after attempted abortions, made the killing of an unborn child during an act of violence a federal crime, promoted the now 2,000-center strong pregnancy care center movement, adopted children in ever-greater numbers, and enacted myriad pro-life laws at the state level.

Is this complete success? No. But it is the steady, unbending, and productive work of engagement in the boisterous, contrarian forum of ideas and action known as politics. This work is also bearing fruit in changing public judgment: Once a clear majority of Americans are pro-life, and we are trending that way, Roe’s days will be numbered.

The facts that political dialog can be poisonous and political action polarizing should not dampen wise and loving Christian civic action. Rather, these challenges present Christians with an extraordinary opportunity to bring “grace and truth” (John 1:18) to public discourse.

If in standing, courageously but with kindness, for some of those things closest to God’s heart – human dignity, the sanctity of life from conception onward, marriage between one man and one woman, and the religious liberty without which no other freedoms are possible – hostility becomes our lot, so be it. As our martyred brethren remind us, there are worse things than being unjustly disparaged.

As long as we love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and speak and advocate the truth in love, we need neither pollute ourselves with political worldliness nor position ourselves outside of the public square.

We should not expect sudden, complete, and permanent change nor give into despair because such change is impossible. We need to be faithful and prudent, as wise as serpents, as gentle as doves, in the public square and the home group, the legislature and the fellowship hall. And this need mandates Christian civic engagement.

A mandate is not a request or a whim. Christians, let’s fulfill it.

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council.

Publication date: September 20, 2012