Sunday, July 5, 2015
Searching for a check in the win column
In a time when the culture wars are raging and it seems Christians are losing, when worship wars are waging and it appears that Christ centered sacramental worship is losing, when gender wars are waging and the family is losing, when nations are at war and it looks like fanatics are winning and democracy is losing, we Christians are often the most unhappy of campers.
Peruse Facebook and you find complaint after complaint or, worse, the sharing of one person's complaints as if this person speaks for all of us. Listen to conversation and you hear people not all that old complaining about the generation coming of age and that which is to come. Read popular magazines and you find the common lament of all kinds of things -- proving that common sense may be the most uncommon thing of all.
Sadly, many of us Christians presume that we must win these wars in order to triumph. I am becoming more and more dissuaded by the idea that culture wars, worship wars, gender wars, and national wars are won by triumph. If we do win, we do not prevent future challenges. Even if we do win, we still face defeat when the law may be on our side but the ordinary practice and values of people are not. Obama is still fighting Bush and Republicans are still fighting each other and Democrats are still fighting all things traditional and churches are not immune from the conflict and confusion of too much fighting without much winning.
I wonder if we have deluded ourselves into thinking that the culture wars will ever be won. Surely sin is behind desire that trumps truth and feeling good as the definition of true good. The culture wars fought over sexual behavior, sexual desire, the marriage definition, abortion, birth control, reproductive technology, etc... will not be won. People can be converted but the wars will remain. Individuals can be called to repentance and the Spirit can work faith in them but the wars will continue to be waged. As Christians we are not in it for the win but to be faithful to Christ with the promise that God works through faithful proclamation and faithful service -- working to reclaim the lost one soul at a time. The real question for us as Christians is whether or not this is enough? Are we satisfied with victory which remains in the hand of the God who defines what it is?
Worship wars will not be over even when contemporary music and cultural Christianity disappears. The roots of the worship wars fought today lie not in musical taste but in the truth that endures forever and itching hearts that insist up defining God, faith, truth, and all else -- first commandment issues to say the least. As long as we are tempted to be gods and as long as we believe we can be gods, we will continue to worship ourselves, let our preferences rule our values, and assume that God is as comfortable as we are with our narcissism. Even if pipe organs replace praise bands, hymnals replace screens, and catholic liturgical practice trumps the emotional sentimentality of what seems to pass for worship, the war will continue. We are fighting not for a form but for the heart and God wins that one person at a time. Will we be satisfied with such a slow pace of victory?
Gender wars are transforming the definitions of love, family, sex, children, culture, and society. We can reorder what God has ordered all we want to but we have changed nothing at all. Surely this is one of those things we think we can do while God in heaven laughs at our feeble efforts at noble and courageous improvement! We can win at the ballot box and in the courtroom and the heart will still find it hard to say no to every disordered desire that comes along. God changes things not by fiat or legal maneuvering but by one heart captive to the Word in which the Holy Spirit is calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying. But are we satisfied with God's progress or do we think we can do better?
The Christian purpose is better served not by becoming like our enemies in order to triumph but by retaining the character of the Christian truth as best we might in even exasperating and disappointing circumstances. The Christian goal is not to make a better world for Jesus or even with Jesus but to call the world to repentance and to comfort the contrite with the Gospel of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Christian purpose is not good for goodness' sake but good for the sake of the goodness of Him who died that we might live. The Christian is not out to change laws, behavior, or minds but to speak the Word that will convert the unbelieving, rescue the lost, forgive the sinner, and give to the dying the life death cannot touch.
I am not at all suggesting we simply sit in the sidelines of it all and smile and wait for Jesus to come again. What I am saying is that we have to regroup and remember what our purpose is, what our calling is, and what our future is. We are not out to change a law but to reach the dying with Christ's life. In the end that may well change a few laws -- and I hope it will -- but whether we are conservative Christians or liberal ones, God's purpose is not served by mirroring within the House of God's people the wars that go on outside, in the delusion that if we work hard enough God will win. Unless I am mistaken, He already has!!