Letting Us Off Easy?

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Whatever happens with Y2K, Christians should use the occasion, in the midst of their sober practical preparations, to reflect on a series of spiritual what ifs. This should not be done as an aid to panic, or as an artificial impetus to redouble our speed in buying gold and dry goods. Rather, it should be used as an aid to repentance.

Suppose for a moment that we all spend the rest of our lives in grinding poverty. This would actually be better than we deserve. Suppose that our standard of living disappears like the morning mist it actually is. This would be a kindness, and still far better than we deserve. If we were to pray for our nation like the psalmist, and reflect on what we were actually saying, some of the words might catch in our throats. “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph?… Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Ps. 94:1–3, 20–21).

We must admit that, in our public capacity, we long ago forfeited any notion of moral legitimacy. “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12; cf. 20:28, 25:5, 29:14). If a throne is established in righteousness, where does that leave us?

Consider abortion. Since Roe vs. Wade, we as a nation have maintained, for 25 years, that the dismemberment of an infant in the womb is morally legitimate. We have maintained this course under both political parties, and have done so despite many squandered opportunities to remove the iniquity. But the Bible says that murder is evil and defiles a land (Ex. 20:13; Num. 35:33–34), and that the unborn in a just society are to have full legal protection (Ex. 21:22–25). Why do we believe that our land is not defiled? Why do we refuse to believe that we deserve to be destroyed—and that destruction would be better than we deserve?

Then we have the matter of moral filth being exalted. From pornographic and federally funded “art” to twisted sex-ed courses to sodomite “marriages” to vile behavior at the highest levels, our culture defies God (Rom. 1:28–32). Why do we think that God could never respond to such things in wrath and judgment? Have we never read our Bibles?

There are also the many ways in which our culture reveals its hatred of the truth. We see the central lie of our government school systems, which is that the living God is, at best, irrelevant to the material being learned in the classroom. We see the lying ways in which we handle our laws, wanting them to be as slippery as our hearts. We have certainly turned from truth. ‘ “How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us”? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?’ ” (Jer. 8:8–9).

But while rejecting the real thing, we still miss the ethical orientation and zeal provided by true biblical morality. And so we have invented a catalog of sins so that we might still launch moral crusades from time to time. But these are bogus crusades; because we will not learn our morality from the law of God, we find ourselves inventing our own lists of things to be indignant about, including, but not limited to, tobacco, sexism, wine and beer, and the history of Western Europe.

We cannot be dismayed when we discover that we have no moral legitimacy as a people, because we have permitted and encouraged the reign of various forms of relativism. This means that, in the final analysis, there is no such thing as moral legitimacy.

But in the midst of Y2K preparations, we have been learning more fear than repentance. In the church we remain corporate Pelagians. We think that, despite all our problems, America is still basically a decent country. Sure, we have problems here and there, mostly caused by a few out-of-control federal judges, but scrape the corruptions off the surface and you will find a fundamental decency. It would be nice if it were true.

But the Bible teaches that nature is revealed by fruit. This is not only true of individuals, but also true of nations and peoples. Ultimately, we get the government we deserve, and following that, we get the judgments that eventually follow. Even when they are very severe judgments, the kindness of God is revealed in them because they could have been a lot worse.

We need to reflect on more than just whether Y2K will usher in hard times. We need to reflect on whether justice demands it.

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