17 February 2014

wisdom and presidents

The day I write this is known as President's Day. It was originally a day set aside for national remembrance of George Washington's birthday.  Over time, other presidents were also added to the commemoration (most notably Lincoln and Jefferson), so that it eventually became known as a commemoration of all of the United States' Presidents.  This is unfortunate on one level, because we lose a connection with the magnanimous character and American spirit of George Washington in the name of honoring all of our leaders in equality.  On the other hand, I see why we would want to honor all of our presidents, so the change is understandable.

In either event, the day is almost completely lost on modern Americans, either from most of us not having a holiday, and those that do probably aren't reflecting on our nation or its leadership any more than those who are sitting behind their desks in an otherwise normal routine.  But the day is still on the calendar, and there is enough of a disruption to our society that we notice - no mail, certain offices are closed, no school, etc.  So, in good American fashion, we look at our current leadership and we facetiously smirk and say, "Oh yeah, President's Day ... Woo-hoo!"  In other words, our modern culture carries quite a disdain for the current state of affairs, believing somewhere in our hearts that this is not the nation it was once intended to be.

The fact is that it truly is not the nation is was intended to be.  Whether you believe that we have gone too far right or too far left, just about everybody is looking for something better than the current state of affairs.  And looking to our national leadership simply isn't cutting it right now.  This may be the country we call home, but it fails to show the signs of a culture that reflects the faith and values that so many of us hold deeply.  Mostly, this is a worldview problem - there are competing values and ideologies fighting it out on our national (and even worldwide) stage.  Sometimes the church is pulled into these ideological battles, and often the people of God act in the same way as the world - only with more spiritualized goals.

If the church feels out-of-place in this culture, then perhaps we are getting it right.  If the gospel is antithetical to the ways of the world, then why is the greatest aim of the church so often to participate in culture, or to blend in with what our larger society deems as acceptable or exciting or cool?  We now have a cultural opportunity to proclaim the gospel in a way which will make it stand out from all of the other options and worldviews that surround us.  There is a higher wisdom that leads us to the truth that cannot be pushed out.  The apostle Paul spoke of this: "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began" (1 Corinthians 2:6-7).

You don't have to look far to see great damage being done to the concepts of truth, morality and justice in our culture.  What becomes disheartening - what makes us smirk at the notion of commemorating our Presidents - is that so much of this damage is being perpetuated from within our nation's leadership itself.  And, the American people are having an ideological set of goods forced upon them, even when we are smart enough to know that it's not worth purchasing.

Although this may appear to be a message about a certain type of politics, it isn't.  Yes, it is a political post in the sense that it does not shrink back from the fact that our national culture has gone absolutely haywire on so many levels.  It is a post about the fact that people are hurting because those at the top are willing to perpetuate their own comforts at the expense of others, and the Bible has more than a few words about that behavior.  This is a commentary on the opportunity for the church to move in the wisdom of God rather than becoming caught up in the wisdom of this age, fighting the rulers of this age, for they are already on their way to coming to nothing, says Paul.

So, when the greatest minds of our age see the greatest plans of our age collapse into the greatest disappointments of our age to result in the greatest catastrophe of our age, what wisdom will people have to hold?

He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

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