“Tell the reaper, tell the repo man; ‘I’ve got nothing that belongs to him.’ Ruin pushes ruble in the city of sin. But I found love at the of the world. – John Mark McMillian
I see an entire country that’s chasing echoes. Looking and hoping that in the middle of all the noise bouncing off all the cold surfaces, a measure of hope and truth might be found. Everyone comes up empty every time because no one can find the source of the echo. Everyone is hearing but no one is listening. Truth has been cheapened and everyone has traded in their compass for a cause. Yet with no absolutes left in morality, there is no compass. No one can see which direction their cause is leading them. They simply march ever deeper into a lost cavern. Love has been traded in for validation, and without absolute truth at the helm, hate is what measures the intensity of the cause. Hate produces violence and violence brings about captivity. We are all being held captive by whatever political echo we are chasing. We are alike in this. Therefore, inward is the only direction the finger should point. We are incapable of listening because we no longer have ears that long to know the truth. We have a cause that will only hear what validates itself; and everyone else we hold in contempt.
The church is governed by the culture. The gospel is something that the church takes as much offense to as the world surrounding it. And so, we cheapen the gospel based on whatever echo suits our cause. “Look to the gospel” has little meaning to us because we have allowed it to be torn apart and broken down to mean whatever it is that makes us feel like a warrior to the whims of the world’s system. We fail to be a beacon of light but rather we fall in line with the marching shadows – shouting allegiance to the causes that have given us a platform to make much of our own name. We pledge little to the kingdom we are supposed to be reflecting. As this country walks across broken glass and burning rubble, the church trips over torn bits of scripture both cut out and dissected so that it reads how we want it to read.
As I have watched a world in chaos for months on end, my heart doesn’t break over the state of the country as much as it breaks over the broken foundation of the church. I pledge allegiance to a different country, and my countrymen seem to be as lost as a world that isn’t even aware of Christ’s kingdom. Ruin can do little more than push rubble into shaky empires that will not last in a city that will always be governed by sin and corruption. My fear is that while rubble crumbles into the decay around us, Christians have lost sight of the love that stands as our beacon at the end. We despair because we have believed for so long that America is our hope. She has become our golden calf and we have forgotten that we were born into the hands of a Father who is our country and our hope. He is not lost or weakened. He is not unaware of all that is facing us, nor is he only concerned with us.
For decades the American church has cared extraordinarily little for our brothers and sisters who have endured far more than anything we can imagine across the world simply for believing the name of Jesus and perhaps for daring to own a small page of scripture. We have been selfish and self-centered and woe to us, for we have forgotten our first love!
“What do you think?” This is the question I have been asked over and again by text and phone in the past several hours. Our nation is deeply divided over important issues; things that matter and deserve thoughtful reflection, civil discussion, and constructive action. I’m not ignoring that fact. Still, the truth is this – I care very little about who you are as an American. I want to know who you are as a Christ follower. I want to know what you stand for daily, not just when it’s a hot political topic. I want to know who you are chasing? Is it a fading echo that will be gone as quickly as it came, or it is Jesus who set before us an absolute calling that doesn’t shift and fade with the whims of those who are desperately lost? Are you a follower of a system or a seeker of the lost? I want to know in what country is your citizenship? Is it here, or does your citizenship rest in the hands of a God who longs to be your country? Are you a mercenary who can be bought to fight for whatever cause so long as the payment is high enough to stroke your ego; or are you a Christ follower who knows that his love will never fail you? Are you ransomed into a family or are you for hire to whatever side pays the most? Have you taken the time to look up and then inward before you look out at everything going on around you or are you raging with hate because you’re only looking out? Based on the way Americans (and Christians for that matter) are treating one another, I doubt many of us are looking up or in before we write that post, leave that comment, or tell someone with different views where they can get off.
I’ve had to ask myself what strings have I attached myself to that belong to the world’s system. Eventually, the repo man will come and he will collect on those debts and I will be left with nothing but trash and hate inside this lost country. Cut the strings! Stand in faith, pushing through with hope that we have not forgotten our first love that stands at the end of all this holding all the things we are pushing for but cannot obtain without our redeemer. Equality? This world will never find it, but God owns it and demonstrates it constantly. Love? Apart from him all any of us knows is how to love ourselves and this is why we rage with hate toward others who also know only how to love themselves. Jesus holds the key to perfect love that can only be found inside his kingdom. Let us not fall prey to chronological snobbery that forgets the truths painted about humanity through history. Humanity will never be better than any other human empire. We might arrange it nicely for a while, but power and self-love will always reign supreme in this world. But we, the church, have found perfect love at the end of it all. Let’s act like it!
I cannot speak on behalf of God, who holds all mystery and all wisdom in his hand. I don’t know why he allows what he allows or does what he does except to say, I know him and I know that he is good. I know that his character is perfectly balanced with both justice and love. I know that “not from the east or from the west (from the republican or the democrat, the conservative or the liberal) comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgement putting down one and lifting up another” Psalm 75:6-7. And because of that, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.”
I will render to Cesar what is his, but I will not march in that army because my citizenship does not reside there. “I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry or shoot the artillery, but I’m in the Lord’s army.” Let’s act like soldiers from a different country, one that will never disappoint. Let’s stop putting our hope in the fancy words of politicians and let’s demand more of our pulpit than those who have aspired to be little more than religious politicians. It’s time for the church to be who God has called her to be. Let’s remember our first love, pledge our allegiance to him and look up. We are surrounded by a lost world desperately searching for something lasting and real. We have been called for such a time as this!