Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stop the world - I want to get off

It gets nuts sometimes. Even trying to imagine sanity sometimes in a world that seems hellbent on proving itself completely wacko can just overwhelm those of us who have any heart at all.

We live within that part of human history (meaning, after Eden and before the Second Coming) where the "truth" is most often a lie. Where the most heinous deeds are dressed up as not only "honorable" but "godly". Where the people we desperately need to trust most propagandize us with snaky smiles, crocodile tears, and twisted information. Where animals suffer for no reason beyond human arrogance, where children go hungry for no reason beyond human greed, where woman and children (and sometimes men) are assaulted in ways they never truly heal from for no reason beyond human depravity, and where people die for no reason beyond human convenience. And all of that in a culture that packages it all up and sells it to us as "entertainment" on cable TV.

It's no wonder we so often just tune it all out, as best we can. And it's no wonder it breaks so many of us -- shatters us into bitterness, rage, and even revolution, when we can't.

But Jesus talked to us about that. From His warning that we will certainly have trouble in this world, to his teaching regarding the thorns of worry and wealth choking out our faith, Jesus never left us with any impression that life would be easy now, or that since He'd defeated Satan's power over us that the world would now be a sweet little lullaby of a place to live.

Especially for those of us with strong empathy muscles.

"Activists" (mostly on the "left", but sometimes on the "right") are generally people with strong empathy muscles. They are also people who don't inevitably flinch away from a full look at what suffering and oppression looks and feels and sounds like for other people. Even more, they tend to be people who are willing to put a lot (even their lives) on the line to make suffering and oppression stop.

The problem is, activism doesn't really work.

Oh, it can sometimes work in superficial ways. A new law makes not paying your workers right a punishable offense, for example, or a revolution tosses out the right-wing puppet that was torturing or murdering people.

But no human action, law, or revolution -- no human reasoning, feeling, or persistence -- can make people stop preferring evil.

In fact, even those who put everything on the line to make evil stop, themselves inevitably fall into evil. Think, for just one example among (literally) thousands, of the Russian Revolution, which began to end the rule of a small elite that lived in luxury while most people went hungry and exploited, and which ended in the rule of another small elite that lived in luxury while most people continued hungry and exploited.  But think also of the Christians in the early history of the church who sought to end the persecutions and executions of tens of thousands of Christians by making Christianity a legitimate part of the ruling secular power/emperor, only to thereby set up a religious power/emperor (called the pope) who over the following centuries persecuted and executed millions of Christians it called "heretics", "witches", and more.

Only a tiny bit of study proves that no human action, law, or revolution -- no human reasoning, feeling, or persistence -- can make even good people stop preferring evil, in the end. 

As C.S. Lewis once said:
Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.

But we will, in the end, "escape" the earth of human evil. When Jesus comes again, and takes us into the air to be with Him, that is the beginning of our escape. Because that will be the time when there is no more waiting for God's justice. At that time, God will:
In other words: all those prayers ever offered up to God, begging Him to stop the evil of lies, of greed, of exploitation, of war, murder, rape, and torture, of forced hunger, and more?  On that day God will answer every single one of those prayers, and His answer will stand forevermore. 

The solution then, is patience. One of those fruits of the Spirit we are supposed to pray for and find blooming larger and larger in our hearts and lives each day. And part of the way to that patience is studying God's Word, to learn and hold in our heart the stories of others who had to wait through things that were really hard, and that made no reasonable sense, and that were just plain wrong, until it was finally time for God to fix it.

It's still going to be nuts, this human world where even goodness comes with the taint of sin.

But we can wait. We can get there.

With Jesus' help, we can't fail.


  1. What I find incredibly ironic (though it probably shouldn't be) about situations like those you describe above, is that I see the sins of others in the world on full display -- and as a result, it only makes me aware of my own sin, and the fact that deep down at my core, I'm no different than the hypocrites who lie in God's Name. =|

    I read stories in the news, and with all the reports of gay or suspected-gay students committing suicide, politicians exploiting their electorate to squeeze votes from us, and people all over the country pointing fingers blaming someone for the tanking economy, I sometimes can't help but fume and let slip some choice words. Anyone can condemn someone else for what we perceive to be their "sin," but it seems I'm only now realizing (after about 3 years of trying and repeatedly failing to follow Jesus) that the sins of others can help us to realize how much we ourselves sin against our God.

    I'll keep you in my thoughts, Sister Lynne. Hope you'll do the same... I definitely need some prayer to get through this crazy, messed-up world. ;)

  2. Hi Chris!

    I agree and disagree, at the same time. On the one hand, yes, we are all guilty of sin. Jesus tells us that even if we get angry at a brother/sister we've committed murder in our hearts. And I myself did a lot of tearful repentance in the weeks after 9/11, because my first (and initially sustained response) was to support a war (which means murder, torture, and rape) response on those who (we'd been told) had attacked us.

    But there are also different levels of participation in sin -- and those levels are very important and meaningful to those caught as victims of that sin. And therefore I must believe they are also very important and meaningful to God (and I believe both Old and New Testament demonstrate this). We cannot deny the heart-rending and life-ruining difference to someone whose baby has been blown to bits, or who had been gang raped, or who's been tortured and/or killed, between the person(s) responsible for that horrifying and very immediate harm, and the person(s) who only wished that harm might come about.

    Have both the "harmer" and the "wisher" committed sin? Of course they have. But we can't deny there is a grave difference and consequence between them. Both should prompt tearful repentance. But they are definitely not the same.

    And there is nothing wrong with the speaking up against either of them -- especially but not only when we must include ourselves as among those spoken against (and that should always be the case, when necessary). As God's people we are called to speak up just as the prophets did, as the apostles and other disciples did -- as Jesus did. If no one "speaks truth to power", then no one speaks for God. And that's wrong.

    What it comes down to is: *how* do we speak for God?

    Do we speak humbly, in complete awareness that we are *not* speaking as if we are someone without sin to others with sin? If we don't speak totally aware of the depth of our own sin nature, we should shut our mouths and keep them shut until we repent of our arrogance and soften our hearts.

    Do we speak if necessary with strong words that might jolt a hardened heart awake, but never with a hate-filled heart? We think we're being "godly" by not speaking up if someone is doing something really ungodly. "I don't want to judge", we tell ourselves. But seriously, someone who kills or rapes, for example, is in mortal danger of losing their salvation. Don't we think that's important? If someone was about to step in front of a moving train we'd act -- but if someone is stepping in front of a spiritual moving train, we want to turn our heads and leave it to God (which is why the Roman Church is so full of child molesters, for example).

    And most importantly, do we speak with reconciliation with God as our purpose? Are our words simply and harmfully and dismissively "You are evil to kill babies in Iraq!" as if the person was already cut off from God, or are our words more about naming the sin and then calling people back away from it, like "It is against Jesus' command to kill these people! Look at what you are doing/helping! Look at what we are all doing! We must stop! We're turning people against Jesus! We're cutting people off from a chance to hear the Gospel! We're causing people irreparable damage emotionally, physically, spiritually! This is not loving our enemy! This is not praying for those who hate us! We must stop or we are acting against God!"

    Our words may make no difference whatsoever. They may even earn us punishment and retaliation (they did the prophets, first disciples, and Jesus). But we're still called to speak them, and in God's way!

    You are always in my prayers, Chris! And I appreciate yours, as well! We will all need them more and more as we move closer and closer to the end of the End Times!