But as someone once stated, "civilization" is a thin veneer, and under the right pressures, it can disappear instantly. I'm not talking about the occasional madman, like the one who massacred moviegoers last week just an hour south of here. I'm talking about "normal" people, and what they...what WE can become at a moment's notice. And it's sobering. Humbling. Alarming.
We see it when people are trampled to death in a stampede to get the newest toy for the kids for Christmas.
We see it it in popular movements where tens of thousands gather to protest injustices (real or perceived) in self-righteous indignation, while treating their fellow man with utter contempt in the process.
We see it in dusty black-and-white photos in our history books, when ordinary people...former friends, neighbors, and co-workers of the dead... avert their eyes from the endless piles of corpses in the concentration camps and wonder, "How did I let this happen in my back yard?"
Until recently, this was an academic subject for me...but not any more. I'm willing to bet that many Christians are feeling it hitting closer to home lately. We see friends, neighbors, co-workers, even family members snarling, snapping, insulting, hating us for simply loving the purity and beauty of God and His ways (in this case, God's design for marriage). We are called all manner of awful things, and are left standing in bewilderment as we wipe the flecks of froth off our faces from their spitting rage. We see our reason and gentleness twisted by their hatred and thrown back in our faces as they curse and scream at us that we are the "haters." We see them applauding as government leaders threaten to strip away the very pillars of our Constitution in order to unleash their hatred on us for our beliefs.
We feel shell-shocked, confused, betrayed.
Now, I know full well that there are plenty who claim to support God's pure and beautiful ways, but who fight for it with attitudes and actions so ugly that they reveal themselves to be wolves in sheep's clothing. People who love to hate their neighbor. I'm not speaking of them.
I'm speaking of ordinary Christians of good will having venomous hostility poured out on us, not for our real faults (of which we have many), but purely because of our belief in what God has defined as Right and Wrong.
In short, though we don't desire enemies, we're finding that we have more and more of them.
What is happening?
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.
Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
(2 Thess 2:7)
"He who restrains lawlessness..." who is that?
I believe it is the Holy Spirit. He holds evil back, only allowing it to express itself in the ways that conform to His ultimate plan for our good and God's glory. God is not the author of evil, ever. But He can, does, and MUST shape, restrain, and control our evil to make sure that it all "works together for good to those who love God," and to make sure it fulfills prophecy. Look how He shaped and controlled the evil of Judas to bring about the greatest good that ever happened, exactly when and how the prophets said it would happen.
And I believe that there are times when He steps back a bit. No, He won't be "out of the way" completely until the very end of the age, for He never leaves His people. So as long as His people are here, He will be here.
And no, He never loses control. He is God, always and ever.
But there are times when He gives evil a looser grip, just to let it show itself for what it really is. You see, evil under a civilized veneer can fool a lot of people. But when the veneer is stripped away, and evil gets freer rein, people may begin to recognize and loathe it more easily (though even that takes a miraculous work of the Spirit). And those who are committed to evil are left without even the lie of "civilization" as an excuse.
So now, in this moment of American history, evil snarls in my complacent face much more than it used to. Yours too, I'll bet.
And, in response, evil snarls in our hearts much more than it used to. We are not purely innocent in these matters, are we? If we think we are, we're fooling ourselves.
If you're like me, you want to triumph over evil in these days. But I have to tell you, I don't define "triumph" the same way that I used to.
To triumph over evil is NOT to whitewash it, whether in our own hearts or in society. Triumph is NOT a victory of mere legislation, or social pressure, or convincing rhetoric. Triumph is NOT "winning God's wars for Him" by using the weapons of evil. Triumph is NOT stockpiling enough to hunker down while the world goes to Hell around us. Triumphing is NOT out-snarling the snarlers, out-shouting the shouters, out-hating the haters.
How can the Church triumph over evil in our day?
I'll post my thoughts on that question in the next entry. But in the meantime, I'll be happy to post any comments which seek to answer that question, as long as they fall within certain guidelines.
- I will not post hateful comments
- I will not debate whether or not Scripture clearly calls homosexual activity "sin." It does. It also calls a lot of other things "sin." We need to agree with God on ALL of it.
- I will not post comments which attempt to encourage worldly responses to sin.
Within the above guidelines, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!