Judgement and mercy
That things are terribly wrong in our society is obvious at every level — individual, family and communal.
ET reports each month on a huge variety of national sin, not because its editors enjoy muck-raking, nor because they want to transform readers into modern-day Pharisees, but to stir us up to watch and pray and serve the Lord more fervently.
The UK is in the grip of rampant crime, family and societal breakdown, ethical aberration and perversion, addiction and vice. Our prisons are full to bursting, even though the legal system sometimes fails to convict or deliver appropriate justice.
There is corruption in all walks of life, sometimes brazenly so. And, of course, we have recently witnessed widescale rioting and looting in our cities.
Fully fledged gay marriage in churches is nearly upon us; the lives of whales and dolphins are treated as more precious than those of unborn human foetuses; paedophilia still erupts in the most unlikely places; and people advocate euthanasia and assisted suicide as though they had a death wish.
The media and entertainment worlds are drenched with sex and scandal; and commitment to heterosexual marriage, including to chastity outside it and faithfulness within, have become museum pieces, with those holding to such values considered as social dinosaurs.
The effusions of arrogant atheists are widely available as best-selling paperbacks on train station and airport book stands, while Bibles and good Christian books remain ignored by the general public.
There is much confusion in Christendom and sometimes even in professedly evangelical churches. Bible reading, preaching, prayer and Christian worship are viewed by the populace as irrelevant or even dangerous; the ‘man of God’ an ineffective joke (sadly, sometimes deservedly so).
All this is not unique to the UK, of course. The malaise extends across the post-Christian Western world. It is hard to ignore the fact that our nation is under God’s judgement — not just because ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), but because his wrath is dramatically at work in our society, just as it was in the Gentile world of the New Testament.
Romans 1:22-25 describes it in these terms: ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
‘Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever’.
But amidst all this we have, so far, been spared the worst judgement of all — the withdrawal of all gospel light and influence.
Nothing can be worse than the scenario portrayed in Amos: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
‘They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it’ (8:11-12).
To lose the opportunity of hearing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ — the remedy against all evils — is surely the worst punishment of all. Let us thank God with all our hearts that, so far, he spares us this deserved judgement.
And let us beseech him that the continued presence of gospel churches (albeit many less than a generation ago) presages, in his surprising grace, further seasons of mercy for our nation.