Pastor’s Perspective – September 2022
I have written newsletter articles for more than thirty years, commenting on the state of the Church and the nation. I have discussed politics, societal issues, and the biblical implications of current events. I have always been fascinated and compelled to study prophecies and engage in discussions of the end times prophecies and how we may (or may not) be moving toward the return of King Jesus. And so, when those around me begin to casually discuss the very real possibility that the world as they know it is ending, my ears prick up, and I pay attention to what they are saying.
On a Monday morning in August, I had the opportunity to sit in an auto shop waiting on a car repair. Familiar with the task, I set up shop at a makeshift table with my laptop computer and a few books to maintain productivity whilst away from the office. Instead of getting an early start on my sermon preparation, I found myself engaged in a series of conversations on the state of the nation and the world. I spent most of my time listening, as comments as innocent as, “boy is it humid” quickly shifted into lamentations on the death of the nation. What I discovered, albeit from a very small sample size, was that a high percentage of those waiting on service at the dealership believed that the nation was deservedly and unquestionably going to hell.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Though versed and trained as a preacher and commentator, I try my best not to get too caught up in the opinions of the national press or the partisan media. While I believe that Jesus will one day return, I do my best to avoid voices of doom and stridency. I try to look on the bright side and continue to remind people and myself that we need to be faithful and endure in good seasons and bad.
I quickly discovered that these prophets of doom were not well versed in scripture or conversant as Christians. While they appreciated my call to love and Christian mercy, they all based their outlook on decidedly materialistic evidence. One of my newfound friends told me starkly that the next two years would be horrible. Another told me that bad things would happen to us because we were deserving of our punishment. Yet another bemoaned the hate that has filled friends and neighbors and that it seemed that no matter where he turned everyone seemed to be against him. Some blamed it on the red and others on the blue, but their discontent and frustration were palpable.
Oddly, these people were not speaking from a place of fear or worry. They did not think something bad would happen, they were acknowledging that something bad was occurring before their eyes and in their lives. Their fears had been realized and they lived day to day with a certitude of a bleak future.
All this happened to me while I was surrounded by texts on the book of Jeremiah; the prophet who endured and preached during the collapse of the Jewish Kingdom. My instinct was to comfort them, to tell them that they were wrong, that we could stem the tide of history if we only did the right things and repented of our sins, but slowly, but surely the spirit of Jeremiah began to flood over me.
Something is happening in our nation, and the citizens are taking note of the changes. Gone is the swagger of the nation in which I was raised. The people can vividly see the crisis that the news and the politicians desperately want to avoid talking about. Some would like to pretend that the future is inevitably hopeful and that we can right our wrongs by transferring power and wealth into the hands of politically advantaged but diverse group of citizens. Others believe that we can go back to the glory days by enacting old policies and convincing the nation of its historic goodness. Both sides believe that we are too big (or perhaps too important) to fail. This may be the line in Washington and in places of power and influence, but the common person is seeing the cracks in the foundation widen. The men in the shop believe that it is too late to correct the fate of the nation.
I am seeing more and more of this. We see it in the young and in the old. More and more are losing their faith in America and its promise and future. Our nation is facing a crisis of hope, and because of this, we are becoming angry, cynical, and hopeless. Our people are dying deaths of despair, showing their rage in violent outbursts against others (especially those who they deem as different or complicit), and pining for a past that they believe to be hopelessly lost.
In the past I would have tried to correct our understandings and find a way to share a vison of hope for the nation, but I no longer believe that it is pastorally appropriate to help people believe in the nation or the party. Propping up a party, a candidate, or even the national interest is no longer enough to correct our nation’s spirit. We are no longer one election away from correcting our problems. I am more and more of the belief that our problems cannot be solved with adjustments and individual decisions. I am also of the belief that those of us who try to convince others of this are engaged in false prophecy. The more egregious of all violations that can be committed by a preacher of the gospel.
Our crises are numerous and widespread. We have politicians who daily violate their oath to the Constitution. We have citizens who daily violate the social contract with neighbors and friends. We have partisans who no longer believe that morality and honor is more important than temporal victory. We have a media that no longer believes in the pursuit of truth. We have doctors and educators who can no longer determine the distinctions between men and women. And we have a Church that is so embroiled in our own need to be seen as valuable to the nation, that we are unable to discern the difference between the word of God and the words of men. All of this is happening while China, Russia, and other violent and rouge nations are rising in power and belligerence.
We have just experienced an international plague that shut down schools, businesses, and churches. We have daily reports of wars and rumors of war. We are watching as money is being brazenly stolen from national coffers, politicians and their families are being treated with unequal justice, and predators are destroying the souls of the young on dark spaces of the internet.
So what should the church do about it?
It is not enough to talk about it or to catalog the dysfunction. We all see it. Even the pagan world sees the end is nigh. They’re the ones holding the placards! They’re the one saying that we are entering the last seven years. Young atheists believe that they are the last generation and that it is not moral to bring children into a world that is doomed to destruction. No one must tell them that the sky is falling.
Now is the time for repentance and salvation. Radical calls to change and repent. Now is not the time to defend the past or to enter conversations about how we used to do things. It does not advance the gospel to convince others of our righteousness or rightness. Our responsibility is not to glorify our nation or its leaders.
Our responsibility is to repent and believe. To change our evil ways and learn to follow and walk with Jesus. We must reject the idolatry of the age that believes that our salvation will come on the backs of other people. This means that we must stop objectifying others, stop blaming others, stop hating others, and stop expecting others to take care of us. We must repent, change, pick up our cross and start living sacrificial lives for our children and our children’s children. We must love and forgive. We must see the world with the eyes of God.
It is time for the people of God to act. To pray. To love. To forgive. To be truthful about our prospects outside of Jesus. To warn a dangerously demented nation that this way leads to madness and destruction. And to lift high the cross of Jesus every moment of every day.
We need a new vision of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We need Jesus. And so does our world.