When the Foundations are Destroyed – What will the Righteous Do?
By President Timothy C. Tennent
Let’s face it. You are now pastors and leaders in an age of increasing violence and terrorism. In just the last few years, we have witnessed unprecedented attacks in an elementary school, several colleges, the pentagon, in Times Square, a Sikh Temple, the Boston Marathon, a Bible study in Charleston, a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, a Nightclub in Orlando, a Shopping Mall in Minnesota, an outdoor country musical event in Las Vegas, and a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. No sector of our society is immune to this wave of violence. What is our role, as pastors and leaders, in responding to this evil?
Psalm 11 pictures an evil person aiming, shooting and killing the righteous with his arrows. Psalm 52 recalls the horror of Doeg slaying 85 priests in cold blood. The face of terror and evil is not new in broken world, and the people of God, both then and now, are called to respond and to embody righteousness in a world of evil.
Psalm 11 asks the central question for our time: “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (vs. 3). We must not forget what the central problem is: The moral foundations of our country are being destroyed. Psalm 11 reasserts, in the face of evil, the grand narrative of the universe: There is a God on the throne (11:4) and He will, in time, overthrow the wicked and establish his rule and reign (11:6,7). This does not mean that we shouldn’t be vigorous in our voices in discussions about gun control, registration processes for guns, hate crimes, mental instability, race relations, and so forth. We should engage in all of these conversations. But, the deeper issue has to do with restoring the moral foundations of our country.
A Christian worldview declares that every person is sacred because they have been created in the image of God. A Christian world view declares that there is a God on the throne who sees, who judges, and who, in the end, will bring all evil to an end, setting all things right. A Christian worldview declares that we are men and women with an eternal purpose and that we participate in God’s work in the world. In contrast, we live in a society which sees no God above us, no person in the image of God in front of us, and no eternal purpose within us. That is a recipe for a society which is lost, broken, and spiraling out of control. Add to that the endless catechesis of our young into a culture of death with violent video games and the film industry, and we begin to capture the depth of the problem. We also live in a culture which is desperate to hear the good news which only the gospel can bring. We are people of hope. We know that the problems we face cannot be adequately addressed by our broken political system. Instead, the church of Jesus Christ must recognize afresh the power of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost world. We must rise up with renewed energy to evangelize and to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the world.”
The headlines in our culture are increasingly vapid and shallow. Coptic Christians are beheaded in Egypt, and the headlines are still all about the Kardashians. We face important issues related to wealth equality, immigration, poverty, and health care, and these issues cannot be addressed in a culture of tweeting. Only the church of Jesus Christ can refocus our culture on the deeper issues which will shape our society for good or for ill. We must remember that, despite the moral degradation of our culture, more people are exposed to sermons on Sunday morning than any other public gathering in our culture. We have a powerful opportunity to take the initiative and lead the way in reminding people afresh of the power of the gospel to address a broken world. We here at Asbury, along with you, our mighty force of God’s love and grace in the world, are committed to “sowing for a great awakening.” We are beyond human solutions. We need a divine in-breaking. Nothing less will quell the violence. May God grant each of you the courage and the grace as you gather each week as the people of God in the midst of a “depraved and crooked generation where you shine like bright lights” (Phil. 2:15).
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