Our world is in turmoil. The word we used last week to describe the prevailing attitude of our current culture was animosity. We said that animosity was ugly in general society; it is ruinous in Christians.
The earliest church had little power. Paul describes the early church with these words, “Now remember what you were, my brothers and sisters, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing.” (1 Corinthians 1:26, GNB). Yet these early followers outlasted a powerful empire bent upon their destruction and transformed their world and ours. They didn’t do it by legislating laws or controlling the political powers of their day, they did it by following the command of the One they claimed to follow. The command to love largely.
Then in the fourth century that changed. Constantine claimed to be a Christian, ended the persecution and in the process the church became identified with the state, and the persecuted quickly became the persecutors. Instead of following Christ, the church began to set their own rules! Disaster followed. Instead of leading by example, we became used to leading by intimidation. Unfortunately, it is the lessons of the fourth century on that we have generally followed instead of the lessons of the first three centuries.
Now, as I stated last week, these two columns are directed to those who claim to be Christ followers. In my observation, we have far too many Christians today who have hooked their hopes to the state than they have to Christ. We have professed believers wringing their hands in fear over who will win the upcoming election and what they will mean to us as a nation. We have people (myself included) praying for national revival, and longing to get back to the age of Christian consensus; an age long gone and an age that is not coming back if we persist in our current course of trying to influence by intimidation rather than influencing by the only thing Jesus said should mark his followers, love. (If you want an example of this type of love, just look at the Cross and then read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.)
I am personally convinced that my prayer for national revival has been largely misled (and so has yours). Why? Listening to various people on this it seems that we are linking an answer to that prayer to who sits in the White House, the Courthouse and the Houses of Congress. In short, our conception of revival seems to be closer tied to a political party and the state than it does to our spiritual and moral condition. Maybe it is time that we as the church stopped obsessing on what “they” need to do and start focusing on what we need to do! Maybe instead of praying that society gets it right (and measuring it by who wins the election) and started praying that we get it right (by returning to our first love). My prayers now are focused on the church more than on the culture. I believe that culture goes as the church goes, but unfortunately the church, rather than setting the standards for culture has instead mirrored the standards of the culture.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” (1 Corinthians 5:12–13, The Message). Before our prayers for “them” can be effective, I think our prayers for us need to become a priority. We need to clean house. We need to get back to the only mark Jesus said would identify us with Him: love. Not a wimpy, wishy-washy type of love, but the bold love that led Him to the cross and a bold love that puts others first.