Is our society out of control? Have we turned against our Founders and the very principles that made America "The Beacon of Freedom" and the hope of the world?
That sounds kind of weird since two hundred plus years of history had shown us to be the envy of the world. Also, sounds kind of weird since we adopted the idea that our Nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
It seems I get my perspectives from the nineteen-seventies when there was sort of a 'Social-Christian revival' taking place in America. It was at the end of the Vietnam war era and the end of the disappointing 'hippie movement'.
During that time, a lot of folks had gone down a bad path in life, caught up in a senseless war, following a new craze for the wild life of free sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. A lot of people were being hurt, were lost and looking for something to give their lives stability, direction, purpose and a new start. It seemed that Christianity was that "thing" and Churches were filling up and growing.
I remember as a 'new Christian', the whole Christian thing was a bit confusing. The language was new, the behavior was different and our new social circles took some getting used to.
Also, I was curios that one of my first pastors, Garvin Martin, was almost 'too gentle'. I know that sounds strange, but, I did not yet understand the ways of Jesus and what He told His followers to be like. But, Pastor Garvin Martin, was a genuine biblical pastor.
I wasn't so gentle as a new Christian. Neither were many of my friends who were also new Christians. I guess it would have been important for me to realize that I had come to Jesus because of MY sins, because of MY brokenness, because of MY need for forgiveness and salvation. I needed Jesus to understand ME. But, I still didn't fully understand that I was to give to others what He had given to ME.
So, with that view in mind, when our pastor, Garvin Martin, was being mistreated by people who were misbehaving or deliberately treating him badly, and he would treat them with kind, gentle, respect, and I would wonder why he would put up with such awful people.
I didn't yet understand what Christ and being a Christian was all about. And, I certainly didn't understand letting hateful, sinful people walk all over me! It just didn't seem right. My thinking was that "We, Christians, had to stand up for ourselves and for what was right"! I didn't see that the attitude and behavior I despised in others, was the very attitude I was embracing for myself.
And, I wasn't alone.
This 'new wave' of Christian converts were here to receive from Jesus, but there was a limit to our giving back. We still had a lot of worldliness in our thinking.
We 'were coming of age' during the "Silent Majority" movement. A religious-political movement that taught us to "Stand up for Conservatism and Christianity" in socio-political circles. Instead of hearing the words of Jesus, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s." Christianity was becoming an political activist movement.
We also experienced a shift in our worship and discipleship practices. The old hymns and hymnals were on their way out and the overhead projector with 'more upbeat' music, lyrics and upbeat rhythms were being introduced. We were moving into an entertainment era.
Discipleship that taught total submission of Christ and His teachings and ways, service to others and sorrowful repentance of sins was being modified. An aggressive 'Dominion Theology' and a 'Word of Faith' type of theology along with a Socialist brand of religious humanism such as the Emergent movement were sweeping our Churches. What is now referred to as "Hyper-grace", "Name-it-and-claim-it" or "Prosperity Gospel" and "Social Justice" were becoming ever popular.
Sin and sorrowful repentance were being considered 'legalistic', harsh and unnecessary. We were hearing that "God loves us too much to love us any less" and that we're born this way. God understands our failings and accepts us as we are, so why change too much? The altar has become a place to 'receive things from God' instead of a place to repent and to pour our heart out before God.
By and large, the primary mission of the Protestant-Evangelical Church, the Catholic Church, the Pentecostal Church, Charismatic churches, in Post-modern America, is no longer just trying to reach a lost world with God's love through Godly living and service, but we now had a 'WE' religious view and a socio-political doctrine which is mostly at odds with the world. Although the Christian Church has always experienced some degree of persecution, in Post-Modern America the 'world' is reacting and responding with an increasingly heavy hand.
Church pastors and leaders were taking new tact in dealing with church business, management and discipline. They were adopting the world's business models and becoming CEOs with soaring salaries. Spiritual abuse or pulpit bullying was introduced to the congregation as a means of control.
Some of the tools of spiritual abuse are gossip, marginalizing offenders, shunning, ignoring fellow Christians, exclusion, threats and the like, and they were becoming commonplace in many churches. Spiritual abuse is a manifestation of pride and arrogance. This pride and arrogance often leads to sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement and the like. The offenders seems to think they are above the law of Scriptures.
The Mission of Christ had become a syncretic Christian-socio-political mission. The world's views have invaded our churches and is presented in a 'mixed-message gospel'. Our response to the world, instead of reaching out to them, is to resist the lost and their views and that is done in many socially hostile and anti-biblical ways.
Has the Church has veered from the clear Message and Model of Christ so even the most sincere of the faith, cannot see their error? If so, how do we 'get back on track'?
Or, we have gone to far down our present road to return to our Roots? Have we strayed to far in order to stem the current resentment of the world?
But, clearly, we cannot continue down this path and be Christ followers.
So, what do we do?
Jesus said, to be changed, we must be "Born Again". I can hear the words of Nicodemus when he asked Jesus, "How can a man be born again when he is old?"
But, maybe that's what we need. Maybe we need to practice what we preach and have a "Re-Birth"? I mean a Radical Rebirth. A laying aside of the current life and taking up our Cross and follow Jesus.
We don't need new ideas, new methods, new doctrines or new movements, we need to be Born Again in the image and likeness of Jesus.
All of us who call ourselves Christians, including the so-called 'laymen', the so-called 'leaders' and especially our pastors need to be Born Again and walk in the 'old Newness of Life' that Jesus talks about.
And, what would that look like? Here a just a few images:
21“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25“Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26“Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. 31“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ 34“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And, there is more. Much more. Anyone can go to the Bible and read it for themselves.
But, I believe it is time we are Re-Born.
The World is waiting.
God is waiting.
But, not much longer. The time is growing short.
Very Soon. Very Soon.
Your Brother and Friend