Jude 1:17-18 says: “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.'”
We now find ourselves, as a body of believers, walking in the aforementioned “last time.” Yet, as we approach the return of our Savior, a striking problem becomes more and more visible: the generations have become more and more faithless, aside from the occasional flicker in the darkness. The love of the Church (and I am not speaking here of the Catholic Church; rather, I am referring to the body of Christ of which Christ is head, as found in Colossians 1:18 and various other places in the Bible) has been mangled by the violent passions of each new wind of doctrine we hear in contemporary society. Even some of the youth who faithfully attend Sunday services at a church find their vision of Christ obfuscated by their vision of social justice. Now, this is not to say that the pursuit of social equality in its various manifestations – feminism, black lives matter, etc. – is somehow wrong or to be despised; they are all reasonably good causes, and causes in which we ought to feel a leading to be ambassadors. I would, however, argue that Christ and His Bride are of far more importance in that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that we might have a heart for the brokenhearted circumstances we find ourselves in.
The problem with the love of the Body of Christ is a two-way street: our generation of believers holds our faith with grips that say, “Christ is coming soon, but my future is coming sooner.” The church is at times both lukewarm and overzealous, creating a veritable chasm in its pursuit of the hearts of our generation.
As believers, we encounter the scoffers in our lives, certainly; in the context of social media and the online world at large, we may even fall perilously (but silently lest we disturb our friends, our co-workers, or anyone, really) into the margin of the quiet minority, bleating along with the loudest voices of the next polarizing issue. When we say that we know Christ is coming soon, that we know He will come as a thief in the night, that we know to not be like the five virgins who came unprepared with oil in their lamps, what are we really saying? Is it something to the effect of, “I know all I need to know about Christ, but let’s be real; He isn’t coming yet,” or “It’s nice to be a Christian and all, but God probably wants me to be more concerned with helping people in the now and being a good person, you know?” As much as these thoughts are for an audience, they are also the manifestation of a deeper self-critique because I too find myself adopting these positions. However, just as the disciples never stopped asking questions about Jesus in hopes of understanding Him more, so too should we ask questions about the Christ who lives in us. Where does that certainty of His delayed return come from? Perhaps it’s because we don’t really have a hope in Christ’s return at all – then again, it may also be the case that we simply don’t know, in all of our “knowledge” of Christ, what exactly to expect of Christ’s return; we exchange our ignorance of His glory for the comfort of facing the present reality when, in the most prostrate of faiths, His return is the reality. But no, we don’t actually want that, do we? Jesus wouldn’t want us to just kneel before Him all day when people need to hear the Gospel, right? It’s true, and yet how much Gospel are we honestly sharing in our lives? If we answer the dormancy of our spiritual lives with sound, but empty, spiritual doctrines, how can we expect to speak life into the world around us? Maybe we shouldn’t be so critical of Judas in John 12 when he is mortified by Mary’s “wastefulness” before the Lord; after all, doesn’t he have a point? It would be better to use that money to help the poor, wouldn’t it? If it wasn’t apparent already, many of the questions asked are asked sarcastically; what Judas is doing is not caring for the poor, but opting for his own comfort when witnessing true worship because giving up his own comfort to fall at the feet of Jesus is a greater price than the perfume Mary poured out for her Lord.
The church also has its share in contributing to the lackadaisical faith of its members, but less so because of what the church is doing and more so because of what the church has become. Defaced by the actions of Westboro Baptist and other very publicly “Christian” groups who passionately stain the testimony of Christ on Earth, the church we love fights a war both against the unbelievers and the believers. Its plight with the unbelievers is the tremendous loss of trust that being human within the church has produced; society looks with rapt attention on scandal and misrepresentation, and when the humanity of public Christians shows, it pounces on each anomaly as if it were a fact of faith. And yet, the hope is that they would understand that we are not perfect people seeking to make unbelievers perfect; we’ve merely found a perfect hope that restores our imperfection before the eyes of a just and loving God. Since this is the case, the church has begun a gradual retreat from the public sphere, believing discretion to be the better part of valor and not wanting to offend anymore people by its “radicalism.” The church’s ability to love has been crippled by humanity’s ability to hate, and so, the church is found at odds with its own body, as an adolescent going through puberty. It is awkward and no longer knows how to present itself. Show too much love, and it worries about being a cult; show too little love, and it loses the hearts of men.
In this very long-winded and ill-conceived post, I suppose the most important thing I have to say is that we no longer feast on Christ, the living Bread. Our appetites are slaked by more present satisfactions because we are blind to God’s reality. The church we ought to love has become marred by its inescapable past, and believers and unbelievers alike shoot fish in a barrel when criticizing it in its present state.
All that remains is to simply pray, “Father, give us this day our daily bread.”
Give us Jesus.