“The time of the Elves is over — my people are leaving these shores. Who will you look to when we’ve gone?” – Elrond
In Tolkien’s magnificent novel, The Lord of the Rings, the immortal elves regularly reminded men that they were going. Their time was done. While they had superior powers that seemed necessary to defeat evil, many seemed happy to get out while the going was good. I’m sure you Tolkien nerds can more eloquently elaborate on why they were leaving.
Sometimes Christians, church bodies, and even pastors come across with the same sentiment. As they look at the wasteland that the Western world has become, many a cultural complainer cries about a Golden Age. Things are much harder now. No one listens to Christians. While there might not be a direct and organized persecution, the loud voices of our culture seemed to blame society’s ills on Christianity with eerily similar accusations as the pagan critics in Augustine’s day. Read City of God.
Christendom certainly seems to be on the decline in the West. At a recent youth gathering, my associate pastor asked the students what their community thinks of Jesus. A young man quickly responded, “A symbol of hate.” This was not the result of reading nuanced cultural criticism from a popular conservative author. His observation was just that.
The knee jerk reaction of many within the Church has been disdain and criticism of our culture. Oftentimes Christians seem to spend a lot of time complaining about how bad things have gotten. Some have written that we should even escape it. Is the age of Christianity over? Is this a bad time to be a Christian or the Church?
No. Not at all. This is the best time to be Church and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Jesus, this is still the age of the Church. When He comes again in glory, it will mark the end of this age. You will know it because you and all flesh will see Him!
Until then, assume that Jesus still reigns as He regularly declares. His church is still sent to go and make disciples of all ethnicities, cultures, languages, even practitioners of other religions and philosophies. Or do you think Jesus didn’t know that times like these would come? Or do you think Jesus hasn’t given His church all the tools necessary to make a disciple of death into a disciple of the Living God?
In this country, more people than ever have never heard about the real Jesus. They may have heard nothing about Jesus except for what has been taught to them on the History channel or by a confused religion teacher. They have may have heard about Jesus, the law giver, from a politician’s passionate speech about society. They may have heard about Jesus, the angry judge, from an angry pastor’s blog talking about the decay of society. Who wouldn’t hate this Jesus?
Many people, especially those who say they hate Jesus, have likely not heard about Jesus hanging out with sinners. They probably have never been told the meaning of the cross or the historical fact of the resurrection. They probably have never heard the Jesus that died only for sinners.
Despite what social media posts declare, people are not so settled in their worldview. They aren’t so comfortable in their sins. They aren’t so fearless before death itself. God loves them to death. Jesus sends us to them specifically. His Word still changes dead hearts – like it did yours.
It’s ok to feel like a mustard seed among the dark looming branches of this frightening forest. That’s what God’s reign is supposed to look like! But that mustard seed can still move mountains – or enemies – or a thief on the cross who discovered the only hope left is a weak dying guy hanging next to Him.
Our hope is not in America, Western Civilization, or making the world better. Our hope is in Christ who died, Christ who is risen, Christ who is coming again. “Lo, I am with you until the end of the age!”