Without Hope in this World
(Building on the previous post.)
You may think I am going to delve into a doctrinal analysis of how a person has no eternal hope, but I am not. That is most certainly true, however I want to address something very real and tangible. Sometimes people spiral downward mentally and emotionally until they reach a stage in which they have no hope. And sometimes when a person reaches that stage, they use alcohol or drugs to alleviate the very real and deep pain. But sometimes nothing seems to comfort them, and at that point they take their own lives.
I watched a documentary on people who jump off high bridges to their certain death. Some of the stationary cameras caught the events. I watched as men and women walked slowly up to the fence, jumped over, and then as they looking downward they jumped to their death. They had become so despondent, so desperate, and so hopeless that they could not see any other way. It was moving. It shook me as I watched desperate people jump to their deaths.
And when I witness things like that I often wonder how God feels when half the church is consumed with chasing heretics while the other half is following them. And all this rages while people by the millions are metaphorically jumping off bridges. It is quite beyond me to imagine the pain that many people feel. Some have been abandoned by their spouses; some inhabit the night watch over a seriously ill child; Some have lost employment and are losing their dwelling; some have wayward children who have abandoned their upbringing; some do not know where their children are; some were abused as children and it gnaws at them; some have lost children to the horror of war; some were deeply wounded in a local church; some have an imbalance and live in depression; some have same sex attractions and cannot tell anyone; and there are all kinds of scenarios where human beings live in a personal dungeon.
Darkness is their constant companion. They live in a land of heartache. Encouragement is fleeting, and when you sit at your 3 year old’s bedside anticipating her death there are no words, no words at all. The pain of a toothache is torture sometimes, but emotional pain is a monster who devours the inside and many times consumes the life. There are literally millions of people who live with excruciating inward pain caused by all kinds of circumstances. And they are a mission field and an opportunity for beings of redemptive light to exhibit uncommon compassion through He Who is compassion.
But while this heart wrenching narrative plays out, the body of Christ seems busy with other issues. Denominational struggles, local church conflict, heretic hunting, castigating sinners, building programs, cantatas, sex for a month exhortations, concerts, conferences, cruises, and many other ecclesiastical issues continue to consume our hearts and minds. Even church seminars about how to protect your money and increase your personal portfolio push out any real semblance of Christ and His passion or compassion. It is a mockery to be sure, but on and on and on it goes. Eternity is now incubated in prophetic doctrines with no real business in the here and now. And sacrifice and self denial is like so much cotton candy.
“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Welfare? The poor houses? Many would rather die than go to these places. Let them die and decrease the surplus population, and if they are illegal aliens all the better.” A little harsh, you say? Well, if you lay out what the western church does and how we operate, the conclusion is much like Scrooge, however the difference being that we do not save up money. We spend it lavishly on ourselves. And when the government attempts to step in with some help, albeit very ineffectual and wasteful, many “orthodox” believers take great offense that their tax dollars are being spent in this manner.
But the same people will vote for a tax increase to build a sports stadium, or donate money to support a rich candidate, or gladly endorse paying interest to a secular loan so their church can meet in a new building. And that is what passes as compassion? And instead of being indicted and provoked to envy when the government offers social programs, the church castigates that kind of socialism because they suggest they should not be forced through taxes to help the poor. “If I help the poor I will do it on my own”, is the mantra. On that issue the emperor has long since lost his clothes.
Jude - 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
And this compassion about which the Holy Spirit speaks is not just feeling sorry for people. James makes it clear that feeling sorry with no action is hollow and worthless. Where is our compassion? Where are the bowels of mercy? Why don’t our hearts break over the misery and plight of so many? We demand such justice for others but beg for mercy for ourselves. The political wing of evangelicalism has long since left the heart of Christianity. No longer walking in abject humility that esteems others better than ourselves, the church submits its list of issues and demands lost and saved alike fall into line. And if an issue will result in believers having to shell out more of their own money, well then, it is a non-issue regardless of the implications for the poor. Financial defense is now an attribute of Christ.
But if we read again the story of the Good Samaritan we should discover the uncomfortable and inconvenient essence of true compassion. The compassion of Christ does not take into account a person’s pedigree, nationality, religious affiliation, citizen status, political persuasion, or anything about the object of that compassion. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” is an amazing expression of compassion. In the midst of being brutalized, tortured, and impaled to await death, Jesus forgives and asks the Father to forgive His executioners.
Please consider this lest you ascend upon your hill of offended self righteousness. The entire human race had offended a Holy God. We had shoved our sinful fist in the face of our Creator, and we had taken His creation and made it an enemy of God. But God, this August and Holy God, does what? He dies in our place!? So the next time you take up an offense for God and His commandments and morals, remember this: Are you reacting as did your God, or are you reacting in your own flesh? The cross is the ultimate expression of compassion. It seems we have sucked the compassion out it and made it a self righteous symbol molded after the model used by Constantine.
Remember, Constantine said he heard God’s voice tell him that by the cross he would successfully conquer many by war. But Jesus said we should take up that cross and go and die to ourselves. One of these voices was God, and one was not. Redemption cannot be earned. It was and is and always will be the highest expression of compassion. It was bought and paid for by He who had every right to bypass redemption and go straight to eternal judgment. Make no mistake, eternal judgment will come, but redemption is now offered to whosoever will believe.
Oh my, we are in desperate need of having the Spirit break our hearts and fill us with the compassion that was shown to us. We are so prone and so given to condemnation which is a not so subtle form of self righteousness and self elevation. But how can we even suggest that we are following Jesus when our speech and actions are so different than His? Desiring to win political points or moral arguments, we keep boxing at the air and have relinquished the essence and power of the gospel. But sinners need Jesus just as we needed and still need Jesus.
Do not presume that because you have been born again that now Jesus can retreat to your doctrinal statement because His work in you is finished. Oh no, that is a grievous mistake. Can you say with integrity that Jesus is your consuming passion and that in every area of your life Jesus is Lord? Please do not lie to the Spirit. We are all in need of more and more of Him and less and less of us. As John said, “He must increase but I must decrease.” The world needs to see an expression of Jesus that is so demonstrative, so arresting, and so compassionate that they are drawn to the true and living Christ.
Yes, the whole world suffers. Do not be fooled, even the rich and famous deal with deep caverns of depression and even self loathing, as well as a sense of meaninglessness. Men may hide it, or dress it up, or use money and drugs and achievements to cover it, but lost sinners are still hollow. And when lost sinners boast of their sin, or when lost sinners verbally accost God and His people, or when lost sinners practice open sin and encourage others to do likewise, what will be your response? Will you proclaim your righteousness? Will you dig your moral trench even deeper? Will you castigate such sinners and seek out other believers who will help you? Will you protest? Will you organize voting blocks? Will you polish off your moral phylacteries?
Or, as in the tradition of our Master, will you give your life for those same sinners so that they may see Jesus? In the end you must show compassion or condemnation. You cannot do both. They are without hope in this world and in the world to come. Will you share with them through words and deeds the hope that lies within you?