Living in a Broken World
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”Jn 3:16-21 (ESV)
The fall in Eden brought with it a great promise, but also appropriate and just consequences that continue to this day. This is obviously well established, for example, by Paul in Romans 5.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.Rom 5:12-14 ESV
A Broken World
We live in a world that is broken, a world of rampant wickedness full of war, pestilence and social ills.
Consider, for example, that most of us live in countries where wealth and luxury is everyday, but also where people live homeless and destitute. We live in a society wracked by mental illness, substance abuse of all kinds, a pervasive malaise of anger, sorrow and at times unimaginable hate.
We live in a society that has forgotten God but unknowingly is crying from the heart for a connection with God.
Jeff Goins says:
The world is broken and remains that way, in spite of our efforts to help it. This is beautiful in a way, because it breaks us of our self-dependency. In a world that refuses to be healed, we must face the fact that we are not the heroes of our stories. It teaches us to rely on something bigger than ourselves and teaches the source of true compassion.(Goins, 2012)
The Heart of God Cries for His Children
The heart of God cries for His children too. John Eldredge in “Wild at Heart” makes this penetrating observation:
And after years of hearing the heart-cry of women, I am convinced beyond a doubt of this: God wants to be loved. He wants to be a priority to someone. How could we have missed this? From cover to cover, from beginning to end, the cry of God’s heart is, “Why won’t you choose Me?” It is amazing to me how humble, how vulnerable God is on this point. “You will . . . find me,” says the Lord, “when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). In other words, “Look for me, pursue me — I want you to pursue me.” Amazing.(Eldredge, 2010)
This world has also not only forgotten the Father but forgotten the Son likewise.
In 1 Corinthians 16:22, we are reminded that we need an affection for Jesus or we are lost.
“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!1 Corinthians 16:22
This is real affection (Phileo) not what is sometimes called sacrificial love (Agape).
In many churches, Jesus is relegated to a babe in arms.
The Lion of Judah
Dorothy Sayers writing in The Whimsical Christian in 1963 penned words that I have never found better written elsewhere:
The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore–on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him “meek and mild,” and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand. True, He was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before Heaven; but He insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; He referred to King Herod as “that fox”; He went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; He assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple; He drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; He cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; He showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, He displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and He retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But He had “a daily beauty in His life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.(Sayers 1963)
Ms Sayers is using this as part of an argument as to the nature of God in the trinity, which is a doctrine that I do not subscribe to, however, it is still a powerful statement as to the “shattering personality” of our Lord, whom we seem to wish to avoid knowing any more.
Where is Jesus?
Jesus our Lord has been relegated by many of us to a cypher, a coda in our prayers, a non-entity that means nothing. We have forgotten that:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:9-11)
The world does not know him and yet he it is that will judge us all .(Jn 5:22-27)
The brokenness of this world is in the estrangement we have from God and His son.
What are we to do?
But this begs the question. What are we to do in a world that is broken?
Well, at its most basic level, the answer is given above, seek for our God with all our heart. We are in fact assured that in this seeking we will find our completeness:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.(Phil 1:6)
This is more profound than we can imagine. We are already possessors of the Kingdom of God and the Day of Jesus Christ. Jesus began the work of converting our hearts when we were baptised into his sin-covering name and he WILL complete that work.
So, in a broken world, the first thing is to get to know and love Jesus and through him to know and love our God. But then we must proclaim them both in a world that does not know him and that dwell in darkness.
The implication of 1 Jn 1 is that, just as we saw the light in Jesus and we are invited to fellowship in that Light, we have an obligation to proclaim the light in this world. The question is what does that require of us?
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.Isa 58:3-10
What are we called to?
What are we called to? Fasting such as no one has fasted – to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke, to share our bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into our homes, to cover the naked and to understand our own fatness.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”Eph 6:10-13
Go to War with the World
Whilst elsewhere, for example in Romans 7, we are encouraged to battle against sin in our flesh, here Paul is encouraging us to go to war with a world that is broken.
The brokenness of this world is exemplified in its rulers, privileged people (authorities), its opposition to God (rendered world rulers – sometimes called Satan) in the present darkness and those who engage in spiritual wickedness. The world is under the yoke and bond of wickedness and oppression. The people are hungry, homeless and naked.
This is a rousing cry! We are called to go to war, just as Jesus did, to win hearts, to war against the social ills of this world, indeed we are called to work actively to bring God’s peace and His purpose to this world NOW!
Misunderstanding “the World”
Sadly, most Christians disregard this warfare in preference for “keeping the church pure” of people who make mistakes and missteps in their own service to God. Let’s face it, in truth these behaviours for the most part, have nothing to do with us and are entirely between believers and their God.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard it quoted that “churches are refuges for sinners, not museums for saints.” Why haven’t we changed our behaviour to match the rhetoric of this statement?
We want to wrap up the “World” in petty things of human behaviour, matters of personal conscience. “Worldly behaviour” for many Christians covers so many things. People have been accused of “worldly behaviour” and even had church action taken against them for things as ridiculous as wearing facial hair or how they cut their hair, piercings and tattoos, drinking alcohol, gambling, dancing (or attending “places” where dancing happens!) and a myriad of other petty behaviours.
With regard to tattoos, note that Lev 19:28 is addressing Israel’s behaviour among the pagan nations surrounding them. In the pagan nations surrounding them were people who engaged in physical, religiously motivated superstition which included death rituals. Tattoos were at that time practiced as a form of ancestor worship and therefore were a form of idolatry. It is therefore a question for each Christian today to determine within their own conscience whether in being tattooed they are engaged in idolatry or worship of their own skin or no. In essence, are tattoos creating for a person a link with the broken world we inhabit? This is not a question anyone else can answer than the person getting tattooed.
Who do we Wrestle?
This is not the “World” with whom Paul encourages us to wrestle.
Paul tells us in Eph 3 that he has been provided with knowledge that had not been previously known. This knowledge is that
“Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”Eph 3:5-6
To a world that was fractured in the Fall and this fracture has only widened in the generations since, this is the promise of Genesis 3:15. That we can heal the fracture.
Healing the Fracture of Eden
So, what is this fracture?
The fracture that the Fall created was one of warfare. Adam and Eve set creation against harmony with God. Humans as the pinnacle of creation were in opposition with God and with each other. Cain and Abel demonstrated the animus that developed even between brothers.
I’ll say it again. The fracture created by the Fall was to create a gap between Man and God and between Man and Man. We are now naturally at war with God and with each other. This is why Christ is called the Prince of Peace. In healing the consequences of the Fall, Jesus’ first responsibility is to heal the warfare between Man and God (on God’s terms) and thus create true peace.
Tolerance or Tribalism
The world today preaches to its acolytes a general rule of tolerance whilst throughout this world, the principle that governs is tribalism. At its “best”, tribalism is seen in patriotism and nationalism and at its worst tribalism leads to war, hate and murder.
We see this even in Churches. Tribalism exists even in the Body of Christ. Instead of welcoming newly baptised people to the Household of Faith, instead, we tend to welcome them with a “right hand of fellowship” to our church, congregation or “the body of believers in this corner of God’s vineyard.”
The Real Body
We are members of the body of Christ and not of a small church or congregation in a town. We are part of a worldwide community seeking to shine light in a broken world.
But we live not only at war, the brokenness of this world extends to all sorts of areas.
Our world is a place of poverty, want and need in direct opposition to the abundance of the world in Eden and as it will be in the kingdom of God. The scourge of homelessness, the horror of drugs and abuse of substances to escape a broken world, all of these things exemplify a world that is lost.
Brokenness within the Body
Within the body we have been infiltrated by the enemy.
Christ warns us in Matt 7 to beware of false prophets who are ravening wolves, no matter how they appear externally. He tells us “by their fruits you will know them”.
Paul reminds us just what these fruits look like:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”Gal 5:16-21
The Battle Within
There is a battle within ourselves and we must go to war to ensure that we do not engage in these things. We don’t get to cherry pick either. We can’t say we are spiritually pure because we don’t engage in sexual immorality say, but ignore the fact that we are a promoter of dissension.
The internal warfare and struggle to manage these things within ourselves is more than enough to engage us.
But whilst these things are the fruits that we see of John’s “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance of material possessions” they are not the world that we struggle against in working God’s will. They are our internal struggle.
Struggling with a Broken World
The world we struggle with engages in these things in highly visible ways whereas, for the most part because we believe that these things are evil, when we fail in these areas, we conceal them.
When we identify them in others, because we hate them in ourselves, we tend to go to war with those others and define them by these behaviours. We should encourage others in their own internal warfare with these things as we should continue our own internal warfare, but we should not cast judgement on them for these things. Instead, we should encourage people in the battle within to self-discipline and encouraging the light within to conquer our darkness.
As Paul says,
“Everyone who enters an athletic contest practices self-control in everything. They do it to win a wreath that withers away, but we run to win a prize that never fades.”1 Cor 9:25
Discipline or Regret
Jim Rohn the American entrepreneur says,
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”(Rohn, 2003)
Whilst Jim was speaking of the battle to be the best self you can be in a worldly sense, this is true in a spiritual sense.
Self-discipline now will create a mindset when working the will of God. Shining His light may be a little difficult but fail to do this and later you will regret that you did not serve Him while there was yet time. I was a young man once who was full of idealism and I always thought that there would be time to pursue this idealism. Now I am not so young, and I am acutely conscious that time is running out and I regret that I did not do so.
A Mighty Work
The fact is that regardless of age and time, we are called to a mighty work in a world that desperately needs us.
The struggle within is real, but it is nothing on the battle we have now with a world that is broken. You will always have the battle within, but the battle without… now there is a warfare to partake in! Partake in that warfare and the one within will fade in significance.
Our struggle with the world is not a struggle with those behaviours we recognise as the fruits of opposition to God. Our struggle with the world is a struggle against the disease itself rather than its symptoms.
We wrestle against principalities, rulers, privileged people (in this order of things) and spiritual rulers who are corrupt.
For our internal conflict, Paul’s exhortation in Philippians is pure beauty and balm to the soul:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Phil 4:4-9
In a world of warfare, God’s peace dwelling in us is the ultimate cure for our sorrow and weariness.