Centennial Carll Bro Block
Delphi, Indiana, USA
But while the devil is a tireless worker, “accus[ing our brothers] day and night before our God,” we know that his lies will ultimately prove ineffective. We know this because he is no match for Jesus Christ, the true witness, the one who tells us the truth about us by claiming us as God’s own. And because Christ speaks the truth, the Christian, too, is summoned to a vocation as courageous truth-teller. She does this first of all by bearing witness to the gospel, but also through a quiet passion for truth in everyday life. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). This commandment of the law is also integral to the gospel. Whenever the Christian refuses to go along with the devil’s lies, she confirms her love both of the true witness and of the neighbor who suffers the burden of false witness. The “necessity” of lying is grounded in the structures of the old eon. But that eon is passing away. In a world where truth (Christ) is victorious, there is no reason not to speak the truth.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 155.
A church that complains of living in difficult times has understood neither the captivity of the world to the powers nor its own mandate. Difficult times are just the times the gospel is meant to address.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 136.
“There will be no more time,” says the angel. Yet far from causing the church to hunker down into a sectarian enclave waiting for the end, the gift of the gospel sends the church outward into the world of peoples, nations, languages, and kings. The mighty angel crying with a loud voice is a type of Christ’s prophetic office, and John’s eating of the scroll a sign of the church’s mission of bearing witness to the gospel, both in its life and its speech. And as the angel stands astride land and sea, so the gospel is truly a message without borders.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p 133.
Throughout the 2000-year history of the Church of Jesus there have been continual trials. For the most part, these trials have to do with the church at odds with the prevailing culture.
In the early church the enemy was the culture of paganism that pervaded all of life. It was difficult for a Christian to totally separate from the culture, because there were trade associations and social conventions that were all centered on the worship of pagan gods. In many places the Christians were seen as atheists because they did not participate in the culture. Even the purchase of meat in the market was suspect, because of the likelihood that it was part of a sacrifice to a pagan god or to the emperor.
In the church of Christendom, the church held great power. The temptation was to use that power for the gain of the church. Those centuries were rife with abuses of church people in the service of the powers in the church.
We live in an age of post-Christendom. The church has lost its clout. The culture would like to shut the church down because we are narrow and exclusive.
Our form of trial is in dealing with this pressure. The question is all about how we maintain our witness for Jesus in the face of a culture that does not respect us, does not want us, and does not like us. The culture has taken away our voice.
People who have lived in times when the church was respected want to figure out how to get back the power we once had, and the respect. They tend to want to fight a political battle. Since the culture has lost its way on morality, these people want to legislate morality. Since culture doesn’t want us to be so narrow, these people become more narrow and more militant about it. Since the culture demands that we wear a mask, these people will not wear on no matter what.
These people are looking to political lords for salvation and have lost their first love.
It is very difficult to find a right answer to the culture, but I’m convinced that this response is the wrong one.
We need to focus on Jesus. We need to continue to obey him. We need to continue to witness to him. We need to learn to suffer these present trials and we must expect them to get worse. We must be among those who emerge from the trials having washed our robes in the blood of Jesus so they are made white.
Let us be in continual prayer for the church, that the God of heaven might strengthen us for the trials.
One surface narrative reveals the refusal to wear masks is because of individual freedom and rights. Who is benefitting from this narrative? Who pays the price? What is the more crucial issue?
“No one is going to tell me I have to wear a mask.”
“I live in America and I have freedom.”
While I do not deny that we have freedom, though systemically unequal, this is not the core issue. Civil liberty has been pulled in as the bottom line but it’s a smoke screen.
Claiming our personal rights in America keeps us from seeing a corrosive problem in our culture and in our own hearts. Whether we wear a mask is not about party alignment or civil liberty. It reveals our moral character. A refusal to cover our faces is not just about people taking a stand for their freedom. It’s that people value themselves and their comfort more than others. It’s about character and our desire for the well-being of others, especially the vulnerable population.
Everybody counts, or nobody counts.Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)
In one way it really does not matter if Trump or Biden wins the presidency. Either way you will have a substantial percentage of individuals who will feel displaced. They will be tempted to create an us versus them mentality in which they can envision the election victors as enemies of the state who must be defeated at all costs. The humanity of those ideological opponents will not be considered. And those who win will also perceive those they defeated as rebels and troublemakers. It will be a rebellion that they will put significant amounts of energy into crushing. Rather than being seen as humans from a different perspective, they will be seen as rebels who seek to tear down all we have built up. Other human qualities that these rebels have will be forgotten. The only thing that matters is their willingness to challenge the particular political perspective of the winners. This is the type of dehumanization that is bipartisan and tearing the country apart.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. (Revelation 5:5–7, NRSV)
Victory comes not through the strength of the lion, but through the obedience of the lamb.
The lamb wins!
This point [about the importance of God’s rule] was driven home to me in a story I once heard concerning Will Campbell, the Mississippi Baptist preacher, writer, and civil rights activist. Speaking at a conference on the theme of Christianity and politics, Campbell was asked what he thought to be the most significant thing going on in Washington these days. His answer could not have been more blunt: “There is nothing significant going on in Washington these days.” In saying this, Campbell lived up to his reputation as a theological gadfly. No matter how politically engaged, he is saying, the church must not allow “Washington”—a symbol not limited to a city on the Potomac—to set the terms for what is significant and what is not. When the church lets this happen, it abdicates its specific vocation and calling as a witness. Campbell’s point is not, of course, that the church should be unconcerned with what the state is doing, only that its sense of priorities must be shaped by apocalyptic perception rather than by the powers of this world. “Washington” is simply not a reliable guide to what is most important in God’s eyes.Mangina, Joseph L. Revelation. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010, p. 83.