A Christian Reassessment
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The election is over, and the political reassessments are well under way. They will continue for a long time. I will not contribute to that effort, as that ground will be well plowed. I would like to engage in a different reassessment, however, not for conservatives but for Christians, and not in terms of the immediate political picture but in terms of the big historic Christian faith picture. So if you name the name of Christ, if you say the Apostle’s Creed and mean it, if you feel like you have been fighting for the soul of your country with little thanks and less to show for it — take a load off, grab your favorite cup of comfort, and let’s reason together.
What do we know? We know life has an Author, we know He is writing the greatest story ever conceived, and we know we are living in it. We know we have been preceded by many, and we shall be followed by many. Together, we form an unbroken chain of faith, faltering yet unfailing, inspired and sustained by Jesus, the author, object, and perfecter of that faith. (Heb 12.2.) We have our time on stage, then we exit to join the audience, that great cloud of witnesses, to root for our children and grandchildren and all who follow. (Heb 12.1.)
What shall we want for them? We shall want that they walk worthy of the faith. (Eph 4.1; Phil 1.27; Col 1.10.) We shall hope that they are heroic. We shall root that they rise above circumstance, see beyond situation, and constitute an inspiration rather than a warning to those who follow. (Heb 11.33-34; 1Cor 10.5-6.) In short, we shall want for them what those who have gone before want for us, and what we would want for ourselves could we see ourselves on the stage of history.
This is the perspective God wants us to live by. (Heb 12.1.) This is why He has given us an inspired history, not only to tell us of His dealings with mankind, but also to teach us to see history and ourselves from the perspective of the audience. In looking at our forefathers, God wants us to see ourselves. In understanding their times, He wants us to understand our times. In learning what they should do, He wants us to learn what we should do. (1Chron 12.32; 1Cor 10.6, 11.)
What do we see when we look into the mirror of God’s people past? We see a people with the calling of callings and destiny of destinies, a people to whom God gave Himself, with whom He bound up His own identity, and through whom He determined to change the world. (Isa 2.2-4; 11.9-10; 54.5-8; Eze 16.3-14.) And we see a people who struggled to walk in their own shoes. We see a people who knew God, but not as they could, who believed God, but not as they should. (Hos 6.4.) We see a people who were the most powerful people in the world but couldn’t see it, who were the lynchpin of world events, but couldn’t believe it. (Deut 28.1-10, 15-25.) We see a people always surprised by judgment because they were the “good guys.” (Mal 1.6; 2.17; 3.7-8.) We see a people who couldn’t get it that with judgment as with blessing, God always begins with His own children. (Amos 3.2; 1Pet 4.17.) We see a people who were indignant when God told them that they were the problem, who could not see that this was a compliment as much as a rebuke. (Deut 8.5; 2Chron 16.10; Jer 37.15-18; Acts 7.52; Heb 12.5-6.) We see a people whom God gave over to cultural erosion, economic distress, political turmoil, and national security threats precisely to teach them that those were not the fundamental issues of life. (Psalm 81.11-16; Jer 2.14-19; Hag 12.5-6.) We see a people who continually missed what God wanted most, which was for them to turn to Him, to love Him, to confess Him and serve Him before the watching world. (Deut 10.12-13; Psalm 96.7-10; Lam 3.38-41.) We see a people who could not get it that God conditioned His blessing and power not on whether the world liked Him but on whether His own people loved Him. (Psalm 81.10-16; 2Chron 16.7-9.)
So how are we doing? Could we be guilty of the same things today? “Certainly not,” we think. “Things are different today.” That’s what they thought, too. “But we are the good guys.” So were they. “We are fighting the culture war.” So were they. Looking back, we see generation after generation of God’s people, each convincing themselves that their situation was different, that the God who had shown Himself mighty in the past and promised to do so in the future was (usually for complicated eschatological reasons) not doing that sort of thing in their day. And looking back, we see that God always took this personally, and He didn’t call it eschatology, He called it unbelief. (Heb 3.12-19.) He assured His people that He was always looking for opportunities to show Himself mighty on their behalf, but He refused to do so with a generation whose hearts shrank back, no matter what theological term they gave it. (2Chron 16.7-9; Heb 10.38.) Unbelief by any other name still smells the same. “But we live in a time of crisis, not just morally, but economically, politically, and national-security wise.” So did they. And God reminded His people that the loudest issues are rarely the most important issues, which are always religious and come down to Who is Lord? and How do we show it? God’s answer was always the same: Worship Me, confess Me, honor Me, especially in the midst of crisis . . . oh yes, and don’t forget to fight the culture war, but do remember that it is a rear guard battle.