Time magazine recently published a “time frame” edition. The cover of the magazine consisted of dozens of boxes of differing shapes. Each box contained a significant event from the last decade, arranged in chronological order. As I looked over the list, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the story of tragedy that it told – everything from terrorist attacks to wars, from natural disasters to manmade disasters to economic disasters. When we consider the last decade, it is easy to feel like the world has been turned upside down.
The truth is that the upheaval of the last ten years has affected us all. Who doesn’t know someone who was in the air on September 11 (or on the ground in New York or DC)? Who doesn’t have a friend or loved one who has fought terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan? Who doesn’t have a loved one who has lost work during the Great Recession? Our church has even had a part in the recovery of one of the greatest natural disasters to strike our nation – Hurricane Katrina.
Many have called the first decade of the 21st Century a “wasted decade.” But, as we stand at the end of the so-called “wasted decade,” what have we learned as a people? More importantly, what have we learned as the people of God? If we haven’t learned anything, then it may in fact be nothing more than wasted time.
One thing I hope we have learned is that we are wise to not put too much faith in our human institutions. The Great Recession reminded us that our financial systems can fail. 9/11 reminded us that our intelligence community can fail. Katrina reminded us that our emergency management system can fail. The BP Oil Spill reminded us that our technology can fail. And there are probably more than enough examples to demonstrate that our government can fail!
I hope that we have also learned that the church must be unlike the world. I have been so troubled by the record number of foreclosures on church properties over the last three years. It isn’t that the church has failed; it is that church leaders have tried to build the church using worldly means. We’ve been busy adopting secular business models instead of being about the Lord’s business. Jesus spoke to this very issue. In Matthew 16, Jesus told Peter that it was the gospel that Jesus would use to build his church, not million-dollar bank loans. In Luke 14, Jesus warned of the folly of building without adequate resources to complete the building, without counting the cost. I wonder what God really thinks about all the money that his churches owe the banks?
In these difficult times, the people of God must realize that we are not like the world in which we live. We are called to be holy, to be set apart from the world. We do not have to conform to this world and her fallen ways. We must realize that we are part of an institution that will not fail. Isaiah 9 looks forward to a time when the government would be on the shoulders of the Child described as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Whereas our governments and systems fail, there is a promise of a government that will not fail. This government is described as a kingdom, established and sustained “with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.”
As I consider our world, I find that my longing for the Kingdom is even greater. As I consider our great problems, I really believe that the only solution is for our King to establish justice and righteousness from His eternal throne. Even still, we wait for the Son.
Amen, Come Lord Jesus,