Saturday, October 26, 2019

His Truth is Marching on

1. I used to love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous quote: "The arch of history is long, but it bends toward justice." I knew it wasn't true for the individual histories of many places. The arch of history in so many places is conquest, plateau, decline, conquest by someone else.

But I thought it was true for the US, at least for this period. Unlike those who liked the motto, "Make America Great Again" in the last election, I have felt that America was, on the whole, getting better and better. I was truly proud of our nation. And I felt the church was getting better and better.

The biblical standard, the Christian standard for ethics is love of God and neighbor, and the primary manifestation of the love of God is the love of our neighbor. And we remember that the love of our neighbor includes the love of our enemy. I don't think the Bible is calling us to be stupid in the face of our enemy. But this is Jesus' ethic. This is the biblical ethic. This is God's ethic according to Scripture.

So what would being a great nation mean? It would mean, of course, being a nation that truly serves God. But that love of God would chiefly mean being a nation that embodies the love of everyone in that nation.

2. As far as loving God, these last years have led me to take to heart Jesus' words that "narrow is the gate and few there be who find it." There will be times and places culturally where most people claim to be serving God. But the number looks to be about 30%. What I mean is, even if 60-70% of Americas were to say they are Christians, I bet the true number in the invisible church is always more like 30%.

The implication is that there will never truly be a Christian nation. In fact, by extension, perhaps only about 30% of Israel was truly Israel. We tend to confuse political units with the church, but I suspect that only 30% of the medieval Catholic church was truly part of the Church. I'm not being rigid or flippant about these thoughts. I'm only saying is that, on this planet, on this project of God in this corner of the universe, humanity seems doomed to be a majority profligate species, even after God's offer of salvation.

God couldn't care less about a people that says they are serving him. That is a trick. That is a path of self-deception. We use our power to force people to our ways and call it "Look God, we are serving you." My hunch is that those who push for this sort of civil religion are themselves probably not truly in the church. My hunch is that the greatest proponents of civil religion are themselves drunk on power rather than the Holy Spirit.

3. So a nation that serves God in name is not a nation that serves God. The greatest embodiment of a nation that serves God is a nation that loves its people and that sets up structures that embody the love of one another. Growing up, I was proud of the American experiment because I believe it at least tried to embody this biblical ideal.

What might this look like? A nation that loved its neighbors would believe that "all humans are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable" privileges, because they are all created in the image of God. That means a system of equal justice under the law, and laws that fight against the natural human gravity of tribalism and inequality toward equality.

A loving system fights against classism, racism, sexism, and any -ism that privileges--intentionally or unintentionally--one group over another. I'm speaking of equal empowerment for opportunity, not communism. "The greatest good for the greatest number" with a Bill of Rights to protect minorities and individuals from what might benefit the majority to the detriment of the minority. Yes, I believe a carefully regulated capitalism makes for greater overall human thriving. Working out the details is always a matter of expertise (and the will to do so).

4. This direction is not inevitable. I knew it, but have long wanted to believe that Dr. King's motto would be true for my lifetime. Yet I cannot say with confidence that history will look back on these days and say the right thing. I still think it will, but I'll admit I'm not sure.

What is the right thing? I think it is clear that the last three years have been a major step back in the move toward justice. Has America become more loving toward its neighbors and the world in these last three years? The self-deception of the evangelical church has been astounding.

The attitude and comments of John MacArthur on Beth Moore this past week are representative of the heart of the evangelical church in general in America. It thinks it is standing up for God when in fact God's Spirit has left the room. I wish I could say, "Let them wither on the vine." God's truth is marching on. I hope that's true.

But God's kingdom is not yet fully here. It will only be fully here when Christ returns. Until then, the true invisible Church may face some rough waters... often from the visible church.

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, but the true church will survive.

Surely there have been times in the past when things were as bleak, or bleaker, than you indicated. (Martin Luther evidently thought that!) But there are still God's people, like the 7000 of Elijah's day.

Have we been called to be a Christian nation?