August 9, 2010

Reason for Optimism

So He was saying, "What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and THE BIRDS OF THE AIR NESTED IN ITS BRANCHES." And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." Luke 13.18-21

“Maybe this passage will help us” my friend said cleverly, “to gain our hope for the future from our great God, instead of from Fox News.” And what he meant was that many Christians – particularly those who gain the bulk of their cultural insights from television’s talking heads – are far too pessimistic. And it is, admittedly, easy to be so. We watch the news and see that a federal judge has repealed proposition 8 in California. We listen to the pundits go back and forth about health care as though it were Armageddon. We hear our presidents – whether Democratic or Republican – consistently demonized. And it is, therefore, no wonder that many people are prone to think the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket; that the anti-Christ is probably sitting on Capitol Hill as we speak!

Our culture continues its rapid secularization. Churches, in many places, continue to dwindle. And, therefore, many Christians seem almost content to pack it in; to just hunker down and wait for the Second Coming. And many preachers stand, every week, in front of the frightened masses, serving as cheerleaders for this pessimistic view of the future. And so – whether from the talking heads on TV, or the preachers in their pulpits – I say that there is a great deal of fear-mongering being perpetrated in our day. And there is a strange and even magnetic power that exists in being able to frighten people about the future – which is why loud-mouthed talk show hosts and political preachers have such a hearing! And too many Christians, it seems to me, have become all too easily taken in by just such tactics. Many Christians are far too pessimistic about the future!

To make that point clear … just contrast, for a moment or two, all the current political and prophetic rhetoric with what Jesus Himself says in Luke 13.18-21. Jesus, it seems to me, presents to us a reason for great future hope! The kingdom of God; the good news of Jesus (v.19) “is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden.” And while, for a long time, it may not appear that that seed is having any effect; while, for a long time, it may appear that the ground is only getting harder and harder … one day a sprout peeks its head above ground! And, in due time, that sprout turns into a large mustard plant, big enough to be thought of as “a tree.” Or similarly, the kingdom of God; the rule of Jesus in the lives of men and women (v.21) is like a pinch of “leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour.” And again, when she first starts pressing and kneading the dough, it doesn’t seem like the leaven is having any effect at all. But a little more kneading, and a few more turns of the hourglass, and soon the whole lump has been transformed!

And so it is, says Jesus, with the gospel, and the church, and the expansion of the rule of Christ in the hearts of men! And I submit to you that that is not a gloomy picture … but one of great hope! The gospel is doing its work, whether we can see it or not. As long as the gospel of Jesus is preached, God’s rule over the hearts of men will not dwindle, but increase and expand! That’s why we send out missionaries isn’t it? Because we believe that, though some patches of ground are as barren, today, as they could possibly be … there is still hope! And if that is true in Sweden, or Sudan, or Saudi Arabia ... it is true in our own country, barren as things appear to be becoming!

I say as long as we have and proclaim the gospel, there is reason for us to be hopeful about the future … no matter what the TV pundits and preachers may say!

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