Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why Be Friends With the World?

I am reading a book about Pope John Paul I. He was smack dab in the middle of the Second Vatican Council and its mission to move the Roman Catholic church into the twentieth century. I still have much to learn since I've never studied the documents of this council in depth. But I have seen some of the results.

What is interesting to me is this relentless pursuit to be "relevant" to a dying culture. Why should we be friends with the world? Why should the church that Jesus Christ established be expected to perform the duties of a political action group? It's all become confusing because so many want to be friends with the world.

The world is a corrupt, lifeless system. I believe we can see it more clearly than ever. There is no justice or peace (the obsession of many in the pro-Vatican II crowd), and there never will be until Jesus Christ returns. Reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ came to save the world (and not organize a group that challenges government), how should our time here on earth be best spent? Fighting against a broken system or reaching out to individuals with the saving message of the Good News?

My husband and I watched the movie "Crash" last night. I made a mistake in renting it. I thought I was ordering another movie with Sandra Bullock, and didn't read the complete description. "Crash" is a gritty tale of racial unrest. It is a story of how the lives of strangers came to intersect in one day through car crashes, carjackings, and shootings. Everyone struck me as having a huge chip on their shoulder, ready to explode at the slightest sense of ill treatment - and explode they did.

As I reflected upon this movie, I thought to myself that so much of the mayhem, danger, and even loss of human life could have been avoided if people simply acted nicer to each other. The film bothered me because I thought it played heavily on people's reactions. We live in a tightly-wound society. My father had a phrase that I used to think was funny until I saw the truth in it. Whenever anyone was crabby or short-tempered, he would refer to them as being "on the muscle."

"On the muscle" was a good description for most of the film's characters and many people we see today. They may be your co-workers, your neighbors, or even your family and friends. They are filled with resentments, bitterness, eager to punch an imagined fist through someone if spoken to the wrong way or somehow mistreated. We as Christians know this is not Christ's way. Jesus knew that He was not going to be friends with the world. In John 15:18, He says, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (RSV)

Jesus Christ did not come to earth in order to win the friendship of the world but to win their soul. In John 12:47, He said this: If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

It is very interesting that Jesus placed saving the world before judging it. In other words, salvation of a person is preceding justice in their world. The ruler of this world has been judged already and found guilty. But justice will not be found for the world's evil. Unrepentant mankind will always stand in defiance toward the rule of God's Kingdom. Kingdom life looks weak to them, and so they ridicule it as being "narrow-minded" or "unjust." How ironic, that the world would dare call the providential love and mercy of God, unjust.

I am watching with amazement as so many churches try to be friends with the world. However, the world will not be placated. The anger, bitterness, and resentments will not go away even if all the demands for "justice and peace" are met. Only will the anger subside as an individual realizes their own sin and asks for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. To change society requires an internal change within a person - not an external one of a political system.

I know the movie "Crash" was to make us think of all the ways we discriminate toward one another, the way we use one another for our own gain. There is value in examining ourselves and our attitudes toward people of other races. But if we leave out Jesus Christ and what He did for us at the Cross, we will only be left with a poor attempt toward reconciliation. It would be man's definition of reconciliation, which to me would not involve the freedom God has given to us through the death of His Son. It would only bring forth coercion at best, slavery at worst.

Trying to be friends with the world, to "get along" with everyone, is not the path that will bring the world peace. Only following the path to Golgotha and kneeling at the foot of the Cross, will do it.

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