As I continue my reading of scriptures, now in the Book of II Chronicles, the above categorization of human beings, shared in a recent sermon from the Book of Acts, seemed almost distracting, lingering in my mind like some nettle in the flesh, demanding attention. That will usually drive me to process, providing an eventual entry to my blog. As well, I had just struggled through the night with personal observations, following interviews for a possible political appointment. As I continue my journey in political leadership, I am appalled at just how divided the Body of Christ has become. As indicated by scripture, this would seem to be a long term, somewhat nagging symptom of our plight as believers, even further back than in Paul’s day.
Of course immediately comes to one’s mind, Republicans and Democrats, with extreme factions in each party an acceptable given; however something more serious and possible sinister has happened of late, causing brothers and sisters in the faith to describe each other as less than American while the same individuals gather in sanctuaries, masking their disapproval of each other as a necessary separation of religion and politics, while worshiping a God whose primary descriptors are love and truth with a heart for harmony. We may now have morphed as a body of believers in America to a point that we can discern neither?
Hitler’s Germany approached that point prior to the holocaust and neither religion nor politics could help until the atrocities that sin always brings, reached such a stench that the world could no longer bear it. Sin brings its own wrath, but as spirit filled believers surely we should be sensitive enough to its sinister symptoms, so as not to be caught off guard? The fact that we will continue to bicker among ourselves would cause an objective observer especially those of other faiths, to suppose we have lost our spiritual edge. Meanwhile, the toe hold of true Christianity and even morality seems to be silently leaking from our cultural pool.
Christmas is our celebration of how God handled this. Following a time when prophets had been vocal within the Hebrew camp, challenging the legalistic nature of the Judaism and capturing for our benefit, the details of a soon to occur event in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2/Matthew 2:6), a baby boom seems to occur in Mary’s family. First, with Elizabeth and Zechariah; this baby would later leave the comfort of the priesthood where his father served (Lk. 1:5) for the deserts of Judea, furthering the cry of repentance, heard from their former prophets. It strikes me as strange that John the Baptist would leave the comforts of the Priesthood, unless there was some odious dysfunction, within the “church”?
Of course, the Babe of Bethlehem was born and soon rejected also, by both the Hebrews, as well within the growing culture of Hellenisms nurtured under Roman control. Why did God choose that time in history? A time when His creatures were culturally divided, long redistributed since those days of Babel, when a defiant people created in the image of God, set out to find their own way, attempting to build a tower high enough to reach the heavens. Yet within 33 years of Bethlehem’s manger, these same creatures would participate in Calvary’s hideous horrors, crucifying the God they had desired to reach, the moment He reached down to them!
Don’t feel bad for God; He knew it when He arrived as the Babe! This actually was His plan, reserved in time for a moment when civilization was at a great crossroads, one that would allow the Good News of God’s love to travel fast throughout the then known world. Ironically, just as the crucifixion of the Lamb was in the Passover season, so the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, purchased by that Lamb, was on the day of Pentecost; a celebration that obviously for many would include the best wine. In fact, those “God-fearing Jews gathered from every nation under heaven” (NIV), perhaps the most religious of their lot, were amazed as they heard Galileans “Babeling” languages, they could not possibly have known, while listening to the wonders of God in their own language. God had brought back the possibilities, that the confusion just after Noah’s day had necessitated, (Gen.11).
Amazing times, yet short lived, for as the number of disciples increased, those who had come to the faith both Grecian (Hellenists) and Jew, and I’m sure many others whom the Jews had thought abandoned by God, began complaining among themselves (Acts 6). Of course, the modern churchman will recognize this as the advent of the office of Deacon.
My point is how quickly we turn on God and each other, sometimes viciously (Acts 7) if we consider the plight of Deacon Stephen. I see that same confusing spirit at work in the marketplace of our nation. We are no longer only Jew and Gentile, but Methodist and Baptist, Conservative and Liberal, Fundamentalist and Charismatic divided in our ranks while our nation reels in dysfunction.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no more rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:13-14 NIV