Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today's Charges Against The Church

 The Minor Prophets Speak to Today

Today's Charges Against The Church

Hosea 4:1-2
1 Hear the word of the Lord, O people of (God)!
    The Lord has brought charges against you, saying:
“There is no faithfulness, no kindness,
    no knowledge of God in your land.
You make vows and break them;
    you kill and steal and commit adultery.
There is violence everywhere—
    one murder after another.


The American church does not stand innocent on these accounts either.


As I write this the miscarriage of just in the Trayvon Martin case has engaged the people of America. 

Unapologetic racists among us use it as an excuse to say they would kill or drive out all the non-whites in America. I was aghast to see actual signs declaring this dream in the counter demonstrations. 

Legalists - the people who stand for the letter of the law but not the intent of the law, the injustice it allows, and the unmet issues of justice for Trayvon as well as Mr. Zimmerman - declare the lawful verdict of the court trumps any greater unmediated issues despite the jury declaring their hands were tied when it came to providing a just response to Trayvon's death.

Other people are wounded by the reality that the Florida justice system provides no recourse for a just response to the senseless death of a teenage boy. To them the injustice of our laws and our system of justice screams to be revisited with reform implemented to insure that the absence of justice for Trayvon does not get repeated.

Into just this type of culture and skewed justice system - supposedly based on the Pentateuch - God speaks to his people and their nation through the prophet Hosea:

Hear the word of the Lord, O people of (God)!
    The Lord has brought charges against you.

Today God is leveling those same charges against the churches of America and the nation in which we were supposed to be a leaven for justice.  The following statements are true in the majority of the churches in our land. The following charges are true about the accepted worldview and practices of the people of America.

DISCLAIMER: In Book of Hosea, as in God's charges today, the statements are broad and are true regarding the character and practices found in the nation. This does not mean that there are no individual instances or individual congregations in which a given statement is not true. But those are few and far between and most who find it necessary to say the accusations are not true of themselves or their congregation are actually the individuals and congregations to whom God is speaking. Like in Hosea, these individuals, these worship communities, and this nation do not consider themselves guilty as charged. So they close their ears and rather than repentance and rebirth they have begun to reap judgment and destruction.

1.     There is no faithfulness in your land:

From prior verses we have learned that the people of God had been unfaithful. This truth God repeats with more emphasis. There is no faithfulness among the worshipers in the land. There is no faithfulness among the professed believers of the land. There is no faithfulness in the administration and governance of congregations for worship. This dire condition exists in America. It is the source of damage and pain for the people who come to the congregations to find transformation. It is the source of the damage, pain, and ignorance of God which severs their children from God and the Church.

In the Book of Hosea we also have learned that nation and the nation's leaders had collectively been unfaithful. Again this is also true of the nation and national leaders of America. There is no faithfulness in the land. There is no faithfulness to God. There is no faithfulness in the families. There is no faithfulness to the community. There is no practical faithfulness to the nation. There is lip service, but in practice faithfulness is missing.

But then again how can the people be faithful when there is no faithfulness in the administration and governance of the land. There remains precious little to be faithful to economically, socially, politically, and even in the administration of justice and the interpretation of the laws. 

2.     There is no kindness in your land:

In general kindness no longer marks our national character and culture. The leaders of the land give allegiance to the financial system that knows no compassion and when compassion is exercised it is for power, gain, rank, prestige, etc. but not from kindness which gives without thought of return.

Even in the donations given to charities and the church, the gifts come with expectations of having a say in how the funds will be administered. The trend for the last two decades has been for giving to go to those charities which provide some kind of return - power, gain, rank, prestige, good feelings, control - to the giver. Kindness which gives without thought of return has died in the charitable giving of Americans.

Look at the church budgets and programs. "Giving to God" also comes with the expectation the the gifts will be spent locally, specifically primarily on the church itself. We have missed the reasons for the giving of tithes and offerings stated the Law as examples for us. We do not spend on the poor, the needy, and the church workers as the Law prescribed as an example of proper handling of gifts to God. And we dismiss the pattern of giving and the priorities for the expenditures set by the early church and left for us in the commands of Jesus and the instructions of the Apostles.

The people in the Book of Hosea stood under judgement for their loss of kindness after the pattern set by God. We stand under double judgment because the pattern has been set for us twice and the instructions given to us twice in writing.

3.     There is no knowledge of God in your land:

One of the greatest sources of my tears when a pastor - and I mean this literally I cried over the people - was the spiritual ignorance of the people. The biblical illiteracy of even the senior citizens which had spent their whole lives in the church was galling. The generation following after them is not much better and the ignorance youth of the church, despite multiple programs and activities, matches the lack among their grandparents and great grandparents. No wonder the congregations lacked direct knowledge of God, usually even indirect knowledge of Him.

Some people claimed to know God, but their lives spoke plainly their deception. Their lives revealed no knowledge of God and, since their communities are to experience God through his people, the communities around the church did not know God either. What has become true on the local level, of course, is even more visible on the national level, especially in politics. What passes as a conservative Christian base is so devoid of godliness and so contrary to the heart of scripture and God that the whole world can see the hypocrisy - the fact that there is no knowledge of God.

Yes, remnants of what was three decades ago a massive grassroots movement of the Holy Spirit among the churches remain. But these have become captive to experiences that engage the created spiritual aspects of humankind - feelings and experiences of rapture, the law of sowing, etc. - but the experiences have become void of the presence of God and no longer lead to the knowledge of God. The lives of their practitioners witness against themselves and reveal the deceptions to which they are captive.

Their theologies and beliefs that have become tight forms of legalism. They mimic paganism's and the new age movement's manipulation of the laws of the universe. I have often heard them talk of how God must do ----- if they do -----------.  They follow incantations and purifications and multiple other human based actions and call them the key to godliness and financial prosperity. Their leaders get rich deceiving themselves and their followers. Even the ungodly and pagans scoff at them and their clear lack of the knowledge of any god except themselves.

4.     You make vows and break them:

Here on the national level the politicians need no exposure. They are clearly guilty as charged. So too are the leaders in business and finances. The promised results of the educational gurus for the last 90 years have all failed. And most of our church members and citizens believe in the goodness and compassion of telling "white lies" or otherwise practicing either deceit or hiding the truth about themselves.

The state of our marriages - both straight and gay - demonstrates the lightness with which we take our vows, as does the state of parenthood and sexual fidelity. It has come to a point where as a pastor I almost cringe when a couple asks me to preside over their wedding. Of course we tend to hear back about the failures rather than the successes, but the percentage of people in the churches who remain married but break every one of the vows they made regarding their life together means divorce is not the only way the marriage vows are broken.

Remember vows to God may be specific or may be as basic as having believed in him and then walked on in our own ways rather than following his as we in faith committed. We breach our vows of purity - God knows he created me this way and I can't help it. We breach our vows of faithfulness. We breach our vows of compassion or giving - financial and time. Need I go on. And what we do the ungodly in our nation do by multiples.

5.      You kill:

Jesus said that to harbor hatred in our hearts is to have committed murder already. We like to individualize that guidance. I do not hate any specific individual - though for most people I know, in or out of the church that is not true: just listen to them talk - but we fail to remember that harboring hatred towards groups of people - gays, Muslims, blacks, Spanish speakers, management, authority figures, etc. - is murder too. And the words I have heard spoke about individuals and groups - in and out of the churches - have been swords of assassination (even gossip qualifies here).

Our coldness of heart towards those suffering injustice - especially economic and political injustice abroad- in our increasingly globally connected world have made us participants in the deaths of factory workers - by the thousands, genocide victims, sex slaves and the other slaves in our world and nation, and many other people. Our self pursuits when they depend on the abuse or endangerment of others make us the purchasers of their deaths.

These are only examples of how we kill as individuals. On the national level we suffer from communal and political neglect that brings death or kills the character, opportunities, and livelihood of others. This was one of the reasons Occupy Wall Street received such broad acceptance. Businesses, especially those run to produce a profit by any means possible, and those which produce profit but not value, have centuries of abuse of workers, the environment, etc. It occurs everyday and no amount of regulation or law stops this kind of killing. They even hire their former regulators in order to learn more ways to get around the intent and letter of the laws and regulations.

6.     You steal:

Much of what is written about killing applies to how we as individuals and a nation are guilty of stealing - taking what is not rightfully (in God's eyes) ours. Add taking supplies from work, cheating on taxes by paying cash under the table or claiming deductions that are fake or a stretch, cooking the books, double ledgers - one for the regulators or auditors, one for functional operations (think beyond financial records to mandatory truckers logs, safety check lists in industry and transportation - you get the idea) .... There are many ways we take what is not rightfully ours both as individuals, communities, corporations, service organizations, and government. Most just don't make the news - our news. God sees them all, even the ones we are blind to.

7.     You commit adultery:

In Hosea God talks about the adultery as following after other gods, unjust ways, and other acts of unfaithfulness to God. That definition applies equally to the American churches. But here it would seem that sexual adultery or impurity is the primary target. The sexual revolution formalized by my generation but practiced by the Grand Generation and the culture of the1920 before them others has led to illicit sexual practices through out our churches and society.

The churches' blind following of the government's declarations about marriage - when it is, what it is, who can marry - has left us unhinged from what God sees as entering a marriage. With this disconnect comes legalistic measurement of what is technically adultery, fortification, and prohibited sexual practice (again not legally but in God's eyes). 

Add to the above the general acceptance of committing adultery with a married person who is not your spouse - as long as you don't tell and don't get caught, and we indeed can be said to commit adultery. If its offered take it. If their married, hey go for it anyway, you might get lucky. Every young man needs a cougar to teach him the ropes -- and God sees it all.

8.     There is violence everywhere:

Violence, physical violence, has become epidemic in our land. Gun violence has reached new depths of depravity. Violence as the way to express unhappiness or mental distress has become a normal option for a new generation. The old cultural mores that used to hold violence in check have dropped away.

We lock our doors, buy security systems, install video surveillance, incarcerate an increasing percentage of our population. Private security has become a multi-billion dollar industry, law enforcement training has change from teaching policing to military tactics, and the number of law enforcement agencies which deal with violence has grown as has the size of their staffs. Terrorism has become a fact of life on a global scale. Violence preoccupies us because violence is everywhere. No place is sacred or safe.

Add to that elder abuse, the abuse of the less able, bullying, child abuse, sexual abuse of partners and strangers, physical abuse of the same and you have just scratched the surface of how deeply violence is intertwined with the very roots of our national ethos and reality. Violence is everywhere and the newspapers are filled with multiple reports of murder daily. We have even moved from the world's savior to the world's abuser and are beginning to be spoken of as a violent nation and a violent people. Unfortunately if we lay out the facts those epitaphs can be justified.


And God Is Dealing With Us
Following The Same Pattern He Has Used Before
And Left As An Example And Warning
For Us On Whom The Promise
Of The Ages Has Come.

Photo Credits:
The Judge by unknown
Gorilla: Zoo Map United States some rights reserved by Willard
correction_neighborhood_watch_trayvon_martin from usslave blogspot com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Privacy Policy