The Current Scene
“Without And Within”
(1 Cor. 5:12)
In Apostolic days the Church was a distinct entity from the world; in it but not of it. Shortly thereafter the Church commenced to compromise with the world. Finally, an anomaly appeared on the scene, Christendom. Roughly it was half of each. Generally, Christendom has spurned Biblical principles. Consequently, for those wishing to adjust their church life to Scripture have had no resource but to separate from the main body. Many separatist movements, after generations as such, have often returned to make up another number under the umbrella of Christendom. Present day religious America presents a new and impressive phenomenon — namely Bible churches. Unlike the “Brethren movement” they have but one negative — liberalism. The assemblies, amid many failures, have attempted to rely on a plurality of elders for ministry and conservative financial principles. They have pressed the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to its fullest implications. This “strong meat” that so readily invokes criticism would fare no better in their critics’ hands if dared to be practiced. The more one approximates the truth, the more correspondingly will he attract Satan’s batterings.
Our text which heads these comments limits the church’s judgments to its own sphere. The church has not been given authority, “But them that are without, God judgeth.” This raises an interesting question: “To what extent should Christians attempt to remedy the world’s ills?” Generally, the Bible church movement has raised its voice in world affairs. A book that has had an enormous circulation among evangelicals, The Christian Manifesto, could foresee occasions where Christians should rebel. Others have taken up the cudgel against Communism. Some in their ultrapatriotism would have the U.S. out of the United Nations. They lament we did not go all out to win in Korea and Viet Nam. Christendom on the other hand is honeycombed with pacifism, anti-capital punishment, and “rights” of gay people. Some of the issues so strenuously championed are laudable in themselves but the Christian has a higher mission. Furthermore, God has said, “Vengeance is mine and I will repay” (Rom. 12:17). Christian ethics are not workable in a Christ-rejecting world. The religious pacifist would rob the king of his sword, which is his only means to withhold bedlam. Everywhere in the New Testament the Christian is directed to submit to “the powers that be,” and never to act or operate in these institutions. Men seek the blessings of Christianity but not the Blesser; the kingdom conditions before the King.
President Reagan has sworn to protect the interests of the United States. This demands that he must make some crisis decisions. Whichever way he turns he invites the severest criticism. In Central America, for instance, on one hand he is told that it is impossible to control events in that area. Other voices say that the United States is to blame for all the ills in San Salvador and its neighboring Republics. Either statement oversimplifies the problem and side steps the real issue that the President must face — namely, Soviet adventurism in the whole theatre. For the President it is a “bless you if you do and a bless you if you don’t” situation. Or as President Truman once said, “The buck stops here.” Those in such awesome responsibilities need our prayers. After all, those in secular authority are God’s ordained ministers.
Hitler sought guidance from the stars; King Saul in desperation inquired of a witch. Men who are not in touch with God discover their need of the supernatural anyway. Their danger is to come unwittingly under the control of Satan. We read of Nebuchadnezzar seeking guidance that he considered superior to his own judgment or advice from his counselors. “For the King of Baylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver” (Ezek. 21:21). The popularity of the horoscopes in most daily newspapers reveals how many today feel they are unable to wrestle with today’s pressures without something beyond the physical. The Christian can bring his problems to the Lord and leave them there. In the event that his desires and petitions are not forthcoming he can always lean back and repeat, “Even so it seemed good in Thy sight”!
The Soviet pullout along with her satellites has been a jolt to the overall planning of this great international event. We are writing in May when the news is being analyzed from top to bottom. Certainly this event has yielded to international overplay. Originally it was to search for and honour the world’s champion amateur athletes. Now it is a pawn in the dangerous game of geopolitics.
Here was one of the best and wholesome exercises of the “natural man” (the unsaved world). One of the tragedies of this life is the vulnerability of the very best things yielding to corruption. As the psalmist said, “Man being in honour abideth not.” The Olympics was strictly for amateurs but the Soviets had their own definition of who is an amateur. The president of the U.S. Olympic Committee is concerned with the existing rules. To him they are as riddled with loopholes as Swiss cheese and “encourage our young athletes to cheat.” Then there is the drug problem which some have taken in the past to stimulate their efficiency.
Worse yet the games have now become a political football. The 1980 contests were held in Moscow with the U.S. pullout. Now Russia, tit for tat, defaults. Here again we have a reflection of the spirit of the world — get even! The Christian ethic, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21), is in short supply where Satan, “the prince of the power of the air,” holds sway.
The world has a comparable adage to describe human behavior when opposing systems and nations polarize in opposition; it is, “dog eat dog.” The present race for the Presidency is not without some dirty rhetoric. Our relations with Moscow have reached a new level of nastiness. The President has been matching the ugly jibes we have been hearing for decades against imperial capitalism. His speeches, intended for a listening world, tell about an “evil empire” doomed to fail. The Soviets have been accused of “reserving unto themselves the right to commit crime, to lie, to cheat” and would end up on “the ash heap of history.” Writes an observer, “One reason the Soviets announced their boycott of the Olympics was to buttress their argument that relations with the U.S. are very bad.” Obviously they intend to blame Ronald Reagan for all the turbulence, with the hope that he will be defeated in November. Also, their intent is to further convince Europe that America is trigger-happy.
The world has enjoyed few eras of peace. When there are not actual hostilities there is the war of words. King Solomon could say in his early days, “But now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent” (1 Kings 5:4). Later, the same Lord that had given him peace now stirs up adversaries against him (1 Kings 11:14-26) because of his tragic failure. God is seen through history and the present to be constantly “overturning, overturning, overturning” (Ezek. 21:27) in the affairs of man. In all this God is attempting to get through to men that things are not right, and that matters will continue this way, even get worse, until Jesus Christ fulfills His promised return and asserts His crown rights.
We have been amazed at the strict discipline, time, practice and energy required of an Olympic contestant. Says Paul, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we, an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:25). We feel for those who have been training for this event of a lifetime behind the iron curtain now to be denied in the interests of an ideology that would settle for nothing less than world domination. The rest of the world’s athletes too, were disappointed in not being able to compete with their greatest challengers. The Christian has no fear of being cheated. For us it is, “Be ye strong, therefore, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chron. 15:7).