May 6, 2009
Don’t Look Too Closely
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.’”
– Exodus 3:14
If you look too closely at the world outside the church windows, you’re going to be discouraged. I don’t need to point out the myriad ways in which the culture has slipped out of the Christian sphere and capitalized on more “diverse” philosophies. You’ve seen it yourself. It’s all wrapped up in the term “post-Christian” – the culture has decided we’re irrelevant.
As Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham put it, “This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.”
Compared to a few years ago, the statistics show that American Christianity at large is decidedly smaller.
Does that discourage you like it does me?
As I’ve been pondering these sentiments over the last few weeks, I haven’t discovered anything that will “save” American Christianity, and I haven’t seen much evidence of widespread revival in Hollywood or elsewhere, try as I might to find it. But then, that’s the one thing I have concluded.
Maybe we’re looking too closely.
Surveys and statistics may be diagnostic of the church as a whole, but they also have the ability to distract. In zooming in on the visible church in the present day, we’re subject to a cultural myopia that can distort biblical standards. We are, after all, American – we’re driven by results, and we like to see the results now. The idea of Christians as a “declining percentage of the American population” strikes us as a failure. And maybe it is. But tell me – where does God enter the picture in that attitude?
We forget the eternity behind the name the Lord told to Moses. “I AM” indicates the self-sufficiency of a God who is “eternal and unchangeable, and always the same, yesterday, today, and for ever; he will be what he will be and what he is.” (Matthew Henry) Meanwhile, we can focus in on this piece of culture around us, fret about our role in it, and forget that I AM holds it all in the palm of his hand. I AM cannot fail, even though those of us down in U.S.A. may see the appearance of defeat. But it’s only that – an appearance.
The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” brings me back to the comforting truth that the Lord is still the great I AM, unshakable in spite of whatever the statistics say.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?
"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."
Intersecting Faith & Life: Let’s keep the perspective. We know that Christ has already won the eternal battles as well as the cultural ones through his death and defeat of death. And that was 2,000 years ago. We are called to bring light into the culture, but we are not responsible for the end result. Let’s focus less on the statistics and more on I AM. We know the rest will follow.