Friday, March 30, 2012

Apples to Apples

Because there is such a great divide between the city of God and the city of man, though both occupy the same space, it is not always easy to judge how the battle is going.  To compare the sweetest, most joy filled full-quiver homeschooling family with the most dysfunctional broken family hardly seems fair. That’s because it isn’t fair, though it is equally unfair to compare the government educated spiritual super-hero evangelist with the meth making family that “homeschools” only because such a claim might keep the government at bay.

The hard truth is that the unbelievers’ best sometimes looks a lot more honorable than the believers’ worst. But the more honest question is, how are each of us doing in the middle? Is the average professing Christian living a more God-honoring life than the average unbeliever? In short, yes.

Tonight I attended a celebration of a couple that has been married for fifty years. This couple belongs to a church that was less than fundamentalist, less than conservative. This couple had three children, and sent them all to the government schools, all the way through college.  When the children were young the mom stayed home while the dad earned a living to support the family. 

Compare this ordinary but God-honoring faithfulness with the average unbelieving family. Is it likely that this family is untouched by adultery, divorce, drug abuse? Is it likely that this family is even still a family? Forty percent of children in America are born to unmarried moms.  Another 1.2 million are murdered by their moms. Forty percent of marriages end in divorce. Government dependence, crushing debt, dysfunctional families, substance abuse are average in the average modern family.

The point is not, of course, that Christians are by themselves better people than non-Christians. “Such once were we” is something Christians must never forget.  Nor should we ever lose sight of our continuing struggles with sin. Rather such a comparison actually demonstrates this truth- as the Christian faith becomes an alternate culture rather than shaping the broader culture, decadence in the broader culture will be defined downward. The Greatest Generation were not all Christian. But they knew what it meant to sacrifice for others. My parents’ generation were not all Christians, but they knew a thing or two about commitment.

One of the blessings of a culture leaving the Christian faith is it becomes increasingly difficult to confuse cultural Christianity and the genuine article. Christians have to choose between being normal and being Christian. One of the great disadvantages is watching our neighbors in Babylon create such spectacular car crashes with their lives.  Worse still is when they crash into our lives.

Our culture is in rapid decline. That decline is more likely to increase rather than reverse. Being salt and light includes preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. It includes loving our neighbors, without identifying with them.  It means looking like oranges in a world full of apples. It means also, however, living in peace and quietness with all men, as much as is possible. When a man honors the wife of his youth, when he saves rather than spends, when he commits his time and energy to his children, the beauty of the reign of Jesus Christ shines forth.