Philadelphians are struggling with a wave of murders that threatens to tear the city asunder. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, appearing on a local TV chat show Sunday, informed the host (firmly!) that he--and others--are sadly mistaken, if they expect law enforcement alone to turn the tide of violence. 

 

The Commissioner is--of course--absolutely correct. So who, then, is going to stop the killing? Movie star Will Smith, who returned home to the City of Brotherly Love to make a personal appeal for peace? Will it be one of the local radio stations that feature angry-sounding rock, rap, or "hot" talk? You know...the ones that play songs that threaten violence to the police, or to people of other races...harmless liitle ditties that glorify violence, drug use, and an attitude that women are "bi**hes and hos?" Those same stations that will, shamelessly, turn around and lecture their listeners on being "part of the solution" by avoiding the behaviors those stations (and their websites) otherwise glorify 24/7?  

 

No, once again society looks to moral leadership from the church, because—in the past—whenever anyone stretched the boundaries of decency and civility, the church was always there to "pick up after the party," and remind people about the difference between right and wrong. Fortunately, the church of Philadelphia is strong, and will likely rise to the challenge anew. But just how long will communities nationwide be able to lean on the moal leadership of their churches?

For too long, we in the church have--largely--been too busy trying impress the liberal culture around us with just how "hip" and "relevant" we are. We've formed unsought opinions about global warming, and have concerned ourselves with defending the so-called "right" for any two or more people who "love each another" to have their illicit relationship "blessed" by the full faith and credit of the church. Yes, we seem to say, you can come and contribute money to our churches...feel good about yourself...and never suffer the indignity of anyone wagging a finger in your direction about bad lifestyle choices. Nope: just plug into our congregation, whenever it fits your busy schedule, and hear about how God wants you to have your "best life now!" After all, the Christian life's not about anyone else...it's about me, and God...right?

 

No...if society's coming to the church, looking for a hand up and out of our latest epidemic of murder and mayhem...I'm sad to report that--by and large--they're knocking on the wrong door. Because--like the Nazrite judge Samson--we have already handed away the secret of our strength to the enemy: our lives, set apart from the whims of culture, and set aside for service to God, through serving others. Satan has snipped our locks and gouged out our eyes, and now all the church can see is what we can remember from back in the days when we had vision. You know, it's never too late to for the church to turn on the road it's been traveling down. But, with every step...such a change of direction becomes more difficult...and more unlikely.