“The angel of the Lord… said ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you… they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'” – Judges 2:1-3, edited
On reading the first few chapters of Judges this morning the above passage jumped out at me. In too many ways I fear religious institutions and people of faith have made a truce with the values of the surrounding culture. For example:
The culture holds up football players, Hollywood stars, and politicians for praise and hero-worship.
God says “you shall have no other gods before Me.”
The culture says beauty, money, and popularity are what make a person great.
Jesus says “he who is the least among you all is the greatest” and “if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”.
The culture says you have to compromise what you believe to get the things you want.
The Psalmist says “delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The culture says “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”
The witness of the martyrs says “one is no fool to give up what one cannot keep to gain what one cannot lose.”
The culture says go ahead and have sex with anyone with anyone you like.
The apostle says “set an example… in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity”.
The culture says whoever shouts loudest and longest wins.
Wisdom says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
The culture says “might makes right” and “the survival of the fittest”.
The apostle says “God [is]… the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
The culture says ‘children are our future’ but it treats them as property — the property of parents (in divorce cases), the property of the state (in modern education), or the property of society (‘future consumers’ – targets of TV brain… er… advertising).
Jesus says “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The culture says women are of equal value to men but doesn’t pay them equally, doesn’t treat them equally, and still measures their value in terms of sex appeal.
Jesus treated women with dignity and respect, and chose a woman to be his first evangelist (John 4) and the first witness to His resurrection (John 20).
The culture of business says profit is more important than the men and women who produce it.
Jesus says “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The culture of government says ‘all your goods are belong to us’.
The Psalmist says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”
God grant us means and opportunities to be salt and light in a bland, rotting, and darkened world.
(readers may feel free to add to this list)