I am not quite sure what the problem is – a renaissance of Gnostic thought, the corporate effects of positive thinking seminars, selective hearing, the sin nature dulling the senses, or our inbred Pollyanna optimism – but American Christendom is infected with an unbalanced, unrealistic, and utopian view of life. How is it that we so often ignore the vast quantity of Scriptures which depict temptation, tumult, tribulation, pain, and suffering? The Apostle Paul makes more than a few references to the fightings that are within and without. Job, the suffering servant, whose book is perhaps the oldest in Holy Writ, is also the least quoted from the modern pulpit. Any gains of the Hebrew Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Israel were not without great sacrifice and upheaval. The Book of the Acts is replete with dramatic conversions, miracles, persecutions, martyrdom, political infighting, and intrigue—no evidence here of the peaceful mundane. The Master Himself said that “in this world, you will have tribulation.” Such tribulation is not confined to physical persecution, imprisonment, or political tyranny. In fact, Scripture places far more weight and stress on our battles with sin, being sinned against, heartbreak, loss, and emotional hardship than it does on political oppression.
In this light, two principles beg to be considered.
Life does not revolve around you. Surprise! It wasn’t too long ago that most people, both Christian and non-Christian, understood this salient fact. I’m quite sure that our grandparents, who knew the deprivations of the Great Depression, and the boys on Omaha Beach comprehended this certainty. However, our generation, driven by caprice and selfishness, along with a cult of victimization, seems to believe that every pleasure in life is “owed to them” and that all sorrow, disease, or calamity, should be kept far from them. To compound this problematic childishness, when the modern churchman doesn’t get what he wants, he shifts the blame of his every failure to the clergy or to his church. Such whining is reprehensible but is still an obnoxious fact of the moderns. These actions are in the grand tradition of Adam’s infamous reference to Eve in Genesis 3:12, wherein all blame for his sin is shifted to the weaker vessel. Yet, it is the “Adamic sin nature” that is remembered and not Eve. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, life on planet Earth will never b e so good so as to forget the promise of heaven. It’s time to grow up and reaffirm this truth.
Faith is more than confession. A cursory glance at Hebrews chapter 11 (the Hall of Fame of Faith) denotes not a litany of confessions, but, instead, a catalog of actions. As James declares, “faith without works is dead.” It is too easy to complain and curse the darkness. No faith is required to recognize evil or chafe under its influence. But making a stand, even as a sinful man, this requires faith. Faith is not comprised of false bravado brandished by those who boast in their prowess in a yet future “no-holds-barred” calamity (these are exceedingly rare). Faith, and the acts of faith, are more generally played out in what might be termed “holy monotony.” That is, doing your duty—in the church, the workplace, and the community—with consistency and expectation, no matter how difficult or heartbreaking it may be.
Staying on course without immediate reward or recompense was the great signal testimony of the “Father of Faith,” even faithful Abraham. He saw the promise far off; yet, it was never fully realized in his lifetime. Such overarching vision guards the heart from selfishness, bitterness, and childish protest.
Certainly, there is nothing profound in these principles. They are part and parcel of a very basic and rudimentary understanding of Christianity. Unfortunately, the longer I spend in the ministry, the more I realize just how great our cultural, social, and moral deprivation is. What was once basic has somehow become enigmatic. I’m reminded of a World War II ballad, “We are poor little lambs who have lost our way…baa baa black sheep.”
Clearly, such an immature testimony falls far below the royal pedigree that the Master has secured for us in His own blood. Therefore, we must strive for maturity, shame cowardice, expose the ignoble, agitate against the dishonorable, upbraid the unchivalrous, and put away childish things. That is, life on planet Earth is, at minimum, difficult. It stings! Sometimes beyond imagination. Life is designed by God with a sharp edge, and only the eyes of faith, undergirded by hope, can produce a godly deportment, mature and fully functional, that will give honor to God and eclipse the wailing of victimization or the illusory hope of a pain-free existence.
From a political perspective, the utopian always rides the “back of the tiger” named envy. This has given rise to the cult of victimization leading to Communism, Fascism, and other statist designs. Unless the church first begins the eradication of such thoughts along with the accompanying fads, programs, and pandering, little will be done to rid the political culture of these insidious designs. It was Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his address to Congress who said; “…the political problems of our day are chiefly theological in nature. Only a spiritual revolution can blunt and tame man’s passions.” Indeed, in order for a new generation of Christian statesmen to arise, pulpits and churchman alike will have to exchange the epistemology of the “belly” for the glory of Christ’s Crown. Only then will true national renovation take place.
Rev. Jeffrey A. Ziegler, the president of the National Reform Association, is also founder and president of Christian Endeavors and Reformation Bible Institute, and host of “Christian Statesman Radio.” Jeff is also president of The Continental Group, a think tank for political activism, and a Pastor at Shiloh Christian Church in Leroy Township, Ohio. He can be reached at 35155 Beachpark Drive, Eastlake, Ohio 44095. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.