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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CrossTalk: Cross and Culture

Now, more than ever, Christian citizens are worried and distressed. The world grows increasingly hostile to our outlook and decreasingly tolerant of our way of life. This is not new, but it is on the rise. Decades ago the darkness entered into pop music; then, onto the silver screen. Next it invaded the airwaves. Worse, it has entered our classrooms and actively seeks to uproot and supplant the values that we are working to give our children. Today it practically permeates all public and political life.

It is not only that the people are corrupt. That has always been true no matter how it was formerly covered up. What has changed is that the corruption, graft, dishonesty and vice is no longer covered up. Dishonorable behaviors that formerly ended the careers of politicians, athletes and entertainers are now excused, defended and even praised. This, in turn, has degraded our culture and emboldened attacks upon Christian lives which stand as a silent witness against all carnal living.

So what are we to think of all this? Should we simply give in and give up? Shall we roll with the flow and consider this “Brave, New World” as a necessary correction that can be adopted without altering the substance of our faith? Should we adopt the underhanded tactics of our culture and use them to fight fire with fire? Or should we retreat, give up hope, and consider ourselves abandoned by God? God forbid! None of these alternatives flow out of the cross of Christ.

Rather, the crucifixion of Jesus teaches us a deeper and more lasting lesson than any of these. On that day, Jesus was manhandled and reviled. He was beaten, spit upon, and falsely accused. He was called ungodly precisely for being God. He was accused of opposing the government even while He plainly confessed that Pontius Pilate received his authority from God Himself. Even though Pilate knew him to be innocent of the charges, he subjected him to the most cruel tortures. Even though Pilate washed his hands of Jesus’ blood, he nevertheless handed him over to be crucified.

Where were the right men doing the right things? His disciples fled. Peter denied him. Those who were left to determine His fate were godless and cynical men who couldn’t care any less about doing the right thing. But God was not absent from this. In fact, quite the opposite was true. God was right in the middle of all of this injustice, corruption and vice. Not as though approving it, but rather, accomplishing His good and gracious will through it.

The very people who are most scornful of God and His ways became His own instruments to accomplish His good work. The greatest goodness that God has bestowed on the world was not done through good men doing good things, but through the enemies of God doing evil things. That is why we call that dark Friday, Good Friday.

That is why we still look upon the cross with awe and wonder and hope. There God once showed that evil events and open rebellion against God does not and cannot thwart His good will. Nor does God abandon the field in the face of evil and rebellion. Rather, God stands with His people even — and especially — where the world has become thoroughly corrupt and godless.

The cross of Jesus reminds us that God creates good even, and especially, in the midst of evil. Christians should not be worried or distressed for themselves as the world spirals into evil and rebellion. For God has not abandoned the field. “He’s by our side, upon the plain, with His good gifts and Spirit,” today, more than ever.
Published in the Uinta County Herald on November 13, 2012

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