There’s always been a choice for every person on this planet – Christ or Something Else. We can categorize the Something Else as “The World, The Flesh, and The Devil”. I’d like to explore how this has changed in our post-Christian America, and what it means to us.
Calling any culture post-Christian is a bit of misdirection, to be honest. When has it been true that most people in any culture searched for Jesus, devoted themselves to pleasing Him, and loved our Master? Never. What changes is what guise The World wears. For the past thousand years (and more), Western Civilization has worn the mask of Christianity – but it isn’t difficult to ascertain that most folks were still chasing the World or the Flesh, not God.
Let’s take a second to define terms. When you chase The Flesh, you chase the good (or the pleasure) of the body. Whether gourmet, exercise fanatic, or lothario, you worship the body. When you chase The Devil, you pursue evil for its own sake… and there are always a few folks who will do this. Those pursuing the Devil also pursue false gods with a willing heart. When you chase the World, you are looking for the “win” – you’re looking for the praise of man.
The way that Western culture has changed in the last 100 years is that no longer do you have to be a member of a church and mouth the right words to obtain the praise of man. This is now optional. There are new requirements, some of which are now anti-Christian.
So, what does that mean for us? That means that the World is no longer on “our side”. * That means that when people want to pursue their own desires, they don’t have to worry about losing status. They don’t have to worry about what the neighbors might think. They don’t have to worry about slapping on an outward mask of righteousness.
Sometimes that makes us think that people are worse now. Maybe they are – we certainly aren’t encouraging people to love the Lord, even by accident. But people have always been wretched and selfish. Humans are not nice creatures, we are all desperate sinners. A culture of people who feel a need to play nicely is certainly more pleasant to live in, to raise a family in – but is it a more fertile field to raise up children of the King? On the contrary, I would say that the open enmity of The World is a better breeding ground for committed Christians. Look at China. Look at first-century Christianity.
Our world, our culture has a way to win and serve both Flesh and World… make enough money, grab enough power, please enough people in order to obtain enough money to consume everything that The Flesh desires. Before, you had to add a certain amount of public “righteousness” to that mix in order to win the respect of the World, now – you don’t. Are we, then, less righteous? I say not. Choosing to do the right thing simply because the World expects it wins us no reward in Heaven. Again, it was nicer, it was easier, to live in that culture and be a real Christian… but the choice was still there.
Now the choice is obvious. It feels like a betrayal, to see the culture turn away from Christ. But remember, it has never really belonged to Him – when you chase The World, you’re still chasing Something Else.
The mask has been removed, and we can see the sepulchre is no longer whitewashed. It is the heart that is desperately wicked, and it is that heart that must be replaced by the new heart given us by God. Or not. There is no solution short of Jesus, there is no way to make things “nice” without kneeling before the Cross.
It feels bad. It feels like “we should do something to make them be nice”. But Nice is not our aim. Nice is just the tepid glop that our Lord will spit out when He comes. There’s not one of us without someone on our list whose choices don’t make us crazy. There’s not one of us who looks at the mess that this world has become and doesn’t mourn. But look beyond the whitewash – our aim is NOT to hand out buckets of lime, it’s to sow seed for the Harvest of Souls.
It hurts. It hurts me too. It made it so much easier to pretend that everything was okay when everyone played nice. But that time is over. We’re playing a different game, we’re living in a different culture. Our aim shouldn’t be to take back Nice, our aim should be to win souls for the King.
Some truths are ugly, and the moment of choice breaks many a heart. But ne’ertheless, we must all choose. Christ – or Something Else.
*Not that it ever was.