Audio version read by the author with subtle embellishments by her puppy
Jesus is coming back. He promised it, and whatever else He is, He is no liar. This time it will not be as an unresisting sacrifice. His upcoming visit will install His indisputable rule – commencing the kingdom that has been inconspicuous since He left. As we grind on through the pandemic with promises of a more virulent virus in the near future, as we Americans watch in horror the assault on our capitol building and anticipate more rioting, as media continues to divide and conquer it may seem like a welcome prospect to have the guy who humbly walked this earth 2000 years ago take the reins of a careening, out of control situation. Anticipating His return He did ask an interesting question: “…Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?“ Luke 18:8
This question seems totally out of place in the passage. Jesus is telling a parable of a widow crying out for justice and an unjust judge who relents out of sheer exasperation to her request. He is making the point that God will surely vindicate His own mistreated people as they cry out to Him. The story is an illustration of His directive just a few verses earlier that “men ought always to pray and not to faint.” He suddenly wonders if He will find faith on the earth when He returns.
For some reason this passage came to mind when the optics of “God-Guns-Trump” or “Jesus is my Savior – Trump is my President” assaulted my eyes and my heart. Hopefully not the consensus of American Christians, but true enough that ‘clinging to guns and Bibles’ has been a recent accusation of the church. Jesus did say He came not to bring peace, but a sword, but examine the context. He was sending them out and preparing them for bearing His reproach in bringing His message to a resistive audience. (Matthew 10) Rejection was and still is unavoidable. He was warning them to prioritize His friendship and favor above all earthly connections despite the outcome. Never did He advocate or practice revolution – outside of a radical heart change that relationship with Him brings – loving our enemies, praying for our oppressors, going the extra mile with opportunists, and caring for outcasts. When a sword was used in His own defense, He healed the wounded captor. This is a far cry from what we see on the news feeds.
I would suggest that “Christian” is now more a political than religious term and no longer indicates what a true disciple of Jesus looks like. In my first blog I asked to be called a believer and not a Christian. This is why. “Christianity”, especially in our country, is a distorted belief system loudly honoring its ‘rights’ above Jesus’ reputation. Fervor to protect from government encroachment excitedly rushes in, substituting political activism for love, devotion to a cause masquerades as true holiness, or dedication to God becomes isolation, ignoring everything except church activities. Conversely many are deserting altogether a distasteful religion. None of these is the faith Jesus will be looking for.
I am in no way diminishing our responsibility to influence our culture. It must commence, continue, and consummate with prayer. (Not the nationalistic taunt we saw in the Capitol building!) The picture Jesus gives is that we are like salt, yeast, light, a city set on a hill. Even a cursory interpretation of that imagery suggests the opposite of force, violence, and rudeness in the name of Jesus. Devotion to Him exerts a subversive but powerful influence. As we learn Him and Christ truly lives out His life through ours, we insinuate rather than insist. The message of faith in a coming king will bring plenty of hostility, as He warned. Gladly I bear that – sadly I bear this. We are shamed for the cult of personal allegiance to a man – but that man is not Jesus Christ.
At this point you may be livid, or you may feel vindicated. It is time for reflection and redirection in our hearts either way. Even those without much religious inclination sense that things are coming to a head, that if there is an apocalypse it is indeed near. If Jesus does come back during our brief tenure, how will we respond to His search for faith? Will we point to our church attendance? To our moral compass? To our good deeds (hoping they are authorized – Matthew 7)? Will we be able to withstand that piercing gaze, the eyes like flames of fire, the brightness of holiness that will destroy His enemies, and demonstrate we have the faith He is looking for? Will He find us believing enough to be praying, or busy seeking rational solutions?
He is not looking for nationalistic fervor to bring righteousness, or rabid devotion to a worthy cause, or voluminous hours logged in a church building. Faith doesn’t necessarily look the same for everybody and we must leave it to the One Who sees the heart to be the only appropriate judge of our brother. He is not looking for flawless but faithful (Priscilla Shirer). You have to iron out with Him what faith looks like in your own life. We each have a different section of the field to work and will give account for which blueprints we chose to follow. “Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these..” 1Co 15:34 Message
The message for us is the same one John the Baptist proclaimed, echoed by Jesus: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Or like an old hippie song we used to sing in the infancy of our salvation “People get ready, Jesus is coming.”