This is a Different World
“How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, "He will not see what happens to us." (Jeremiah 12:4)
After hearing of the school shooting yesterday, I wanted to wait one more day and reflect more before responding too quickly. Our nation has never been this bad in many respects: with roughly 1/3 of young women reporting suicidal thoughts, with polls stating that attitudes regarding patriotism, having children, and hard work hitting an all-time low. Patriotism is down to 38% from 70% in 1998, (the year I graduated from college). The “Importance of Religion” is down to 39% from 62% back in 1998. “Family Values, such as having children, down to 30% from 59% in 1998.
These things really shouldn’t surprise us, I suppose, as we’ve seen the degradation over the years, and yet they do. People still ask “Why” with every tragedy, and the answers are getting ever more shrill and irrational. I heard the Mayor of Nashville address the problem as “guns” and not the “shooter of the guns” All these are only symptoms of the greater problem; the cause of this is a rejection of God and rebellion against Him. Our nation has always had “God-fearers”, but now the very theological framework surrounding our view of the world, God, and self, has flipped in the minds of those in leadership.
We have a culture that no longer recognizes that they are made in the image of God. Secularism has replaced theism as the general operating principle in schools, workplaces, government centers, and dare I say: churches! Rampant sin has always been around, but in the scope of history, the recognition of it, and the cure for it by turning to God (or the gods), has never been so distasteful! In a world of secularism, people turn to either government, narcissism, or both as the answer to societies “ills”. The results of this over time, are “systemic” (to quote a popular modern phrase), and the end, apart from the mercy of God, is catastrophic. God gives those who refuse to repent the due penalties for their own sin – He “gives them over” to their own destructive desires.
The good news is that they cannot replace reality! There are still God-given longings for order, happiness, love, fulfillment, lying underneath those disordered desires for power, possessions, & prestige. We can let these destructive desires run their course to inevitable ends, or we can step up and step in-between the deceivers and the deceived. What we CANNOT afford to do , as Christians, is to assume that our world is just like it was, even 5-10 years ago! We cannot assume that those in secular authority are always speaking the truth to us. We cannot assume that our doctors and drug companies are always seeking the good of the patient. We cannot assume that the majority of churches & church leaders are listening to the Shepherd and leading the sheep to greener pastures.
The good news is that those who DO will stand out, as we should! They will wonder why we have a joy and a hope in the face of difficulty & persecution. I’ve heard from several sources in the outside world recently, that the way to solve these current problems is “community”. That is a very myopic answer. What kind of “community”? A “community” of jihadists, or a gay-bar “community”? An LGBTQ+ affirming church “community” that puts societal norms of “love” ahead of God? Those who live and love according to the Law of God will stand out for good reasons, but we need to be prepared to be misunderstood. Without knowing too much surrounding the background of the recent shooter, other than she had attended the Christian school, it is possible that she chose to listen to the lies of the land over the call to holiness in Christ: Lies that describe faithful Christians as “hateful” and “bigoted”.
I keep coming back to John 6, where we have the crowds “seeking him” (v24), even chasing him around the Sea of Galilee (v25) because they were fed the loaves and fish by Jesus (v26). Jesus tells them not to “work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” He tells them that following him means “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” (vv35, 41, 48-58), which means fully taking Him into every aspect of one’s life. When the crowds realized that following Him involved real sacrifice, most of them left him and no longer followed. The closest disciples stayed, because of the truth of this testimony: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (vv68-69) The same thing happened at the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week leading up his crucifixion, where the crowds would again turn on Him. This should not surprise us to see the same pattern of behavior today.
However, we must also be like our Master! Jesus looked at the lost crowds…with compassion, because they were like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36)! He never condoned the sinner’s sin, but addressed it. He exhorted his followers in their day, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) We must continue in the same mindset as the earliest Christians, and not neglect the small acts of obedience as His servants.
In this rapidly-changing world, we still have the same mandate: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)