Tonight there are two criminals on the loose in Lynchburg. It was an armed robbery and the cops put an entire section of town on lock down while they searched, escorting restaurant patrons to their cars, kids to school buses, and even cancelling church services. There was a helicopter flying around and cop cars everywhere. I know all this because of Facebook – tons of people posted photos and news stories and asked for prayer. Then someone said this: “What is this world coming to?”
And I let out a frustrated breath and rolled my eyes. Really? Come on. People say that all the time, and it never ceases to bring out the frustration in me. After Newtown, after Boston, even after the election I heard so many people say things like “What is wrong with our world?” – Christians, believers, leaders in my church and I want to just put my hands on either side of their face and yell, “You’re asking the wrong question!”
I could go through the whole “The world is sinful, it will only get worse, etc. etc.” thing, but the truth is, the world has always been screwed up. I’m not sure if it’s getting worse or not. 2,000 years ago the depravity was so bad that the disciples thought they were in the last days. 2 thousand years before that God destroyed an entire city of people because of their sinfulness. And when the world was relatively young God flooded it and only spared one family. So it seems like we’ve been real messed up for a looooong time, yet in every generation there are some who are simply aghast at this. But to quote a wise author, I’d like to ask, Why are we surprised when sinners sin?
Why are we surprised when sinners sin?
Why are we appalled when the deceived make decisions based on a lie?
Why are we shocked when radical, committed, religious people blow up buildings because they believe they are obeying a higher calling?
I’m not numb. I cried for days after the Newton tragedy trying to imagine those parents’ pain. I struggle with my own convictions about the death penalty when I think about those who would take the life of children. My heart aches to imagine the joy of finishing a marathon turning to the horror of the smell of smoke and a bloody sidewalk. I am not numb. But I’m also not surprised.
I know some would call me cynical. In the wake of every tragedy there are those who point out that it was just two crazy people, one messed up man, one group of radicals. But as Christians, we see entire cultures slowly eroding, slowly accepting sin as normal, slowly rejecting truth and embracing lies. That’s not just one or two people. That’s millions.
We are all made in the image of God. I wish I could believe all people were good, but the Word tells us otherwise. So when people ask “What is this world coming to?”, what I want to say in reply is, “No, what is the church coming to?” If we are salt and light, why is the world so tasteless and dark? If we are called to care for the needy, give to the poor, speak truth to the lost, and love the unlovable than why is so much of our world destitute, impoverished, deceived, and rejected? If we are going to be shocked by something, I think we should probably be shocked by our own ineffectiveness.
And now on the other side of the coin, others would probably call me cynical, and I understand. The church in its entirety is not dead, lazy, extinguished, scared… I really do believe that. But I would venture to say that the church in America, in general, is not what Jesus had in mind.
So the next time something terrible happens, instead of saying “What is wrong with the world?” let’s mourn with the hurting, rebuild with the fallen, and give to the devastated. Instead of going on Facebook and saying “What is this world coming to?” let’s go out into the world and proclaim “There is hope!” And then let’s be that hope, that “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” He is the light of the world, and He lives in us.