The Current Scene
After weeks of seemingly fruitless sailing Columbus was enlivened by the report that a log with leaves upon it had been sighted, and later some birds. These were signs of land, although no land was in sight. Soon after the New World was discovered.
The Lord Jesus has covenanted with His own to come back and receive them unto Himself. Also, He is to visibly return to the earth and “His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives.” Furthermore, “every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7). We are also told that there will be unmistakable signs that will announce the nearness of His return. The time just prior to His Second Coming could be particularly disheartening to the Christian, especially as he observes the apparent triumph of evil. The Lord has given a seasonal word: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” The present phenomenal build up of the sinews of war are with little doubt destined to contribute toward the war long foretold that will surpass anything heretofore experienced. Another sign that does not take much imagination to declare that it is upon us is the rise and present extent of crime. Since the rise of Methodism and Quaker influence, now nearly 200 years ago, there has been a steady increase in prison reform. In the last 50 years the approach has been more humanitarian than Christian. Certainly it is not Biblical Christianity that has done away with capital punishment. We are hearing a lot about the prisoner’s rights and observing the dispensing of light sentences and easy parole. The victims of crime get little satisfaction from this soft approach. Furthermore, it can feed crime, as there is little to fear from the law enforcement agencies. Prolonged and expensive trials with delayed justice are also conducive to crime.
The observing Solomon wrote, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Anyway, with all our prosperity and amenities, so that no one should actually go hungry in the United States, as well as Canada, crime, and often that of a most disgusting nature, threatens to get out of hand. Certainly this is just what Scripture says of the “last days,” and listed in a frightening catalogue of evil are these words, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (2 Timothy 3:13).
The world since the fall of man has always answered up to the description given in Romans 1. In 2 Timothy the foundations have been destroyed. Outward Christianity has taken on the features of the world. This brings to mind Kipling’s ditty, “The Road to Mandalay.” It is about a British soldier home from duty in the Far East. At the turn of the century Protestant lands were characterized by lots of “blue laws,” byproducts of course of Biblical influence. The soldier of colonial days is irked by the restrictions enforced in his homeland and he breathes out his preference when he says, “Take me somewhere East of Suez where there ain’t no ten commandments, and a man can raise a thirst.” Now all has changed in the West. Here, too, the absolutes of Christianity are little known and let alone feared. Consequently, the hunt for a place to do his thing need not be a long journey. Nor are the slums the hatcheries for crime; its ugly hand is seen in all walks of life. Among the affluent, broken homes and alcohol tend to incubate teen-age corruption.
Let us thank God for the divine institution of government (Romans 13). When law enforcement is relaxed but for a moment pandemonium immediately fills the vacuum. The recent blackout in New York City is a grim reminder of the thin veneer that hides the real nature of society. The Apostle Paul speaks of iniquity as a “mystery” that was working in his day and would continue to do so until it had reached a full head. Preventing sin from reaching its apogee is a “hinderer” or “restrainer.” Many of us believe that this “hinderer” is the Holy Spirit baptized Church (1 Corinthians 12:13), the present “salt of the earth.” When the Church has been raptured Satan gets his long awaited green light. Not until iniquity has reached its climax, and all of the ramifications have been finally disclosed, does the Lord come to reign in righteousness. That, too, is going to be brought into its fullest manifestation. Then we read, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3). The voluntary response to God’s grace today is a far higher ethical quality than submission to the disciplines of the coming kingdom.
An area wherein the United States needs to be as wise as a serpent and strong as a lion is in the arms race. This is not the time to beat swords into plowshares. Last May, President Carter announced new controls on arms sales in order to make them “an exceptional foreign policy impliment.” Later he added, “Now it is the consumers’ or customers’ responsibility to convince us that they need those weapons and that the sale of those weapons will be to the advantage of the United States rather than the other way around.” As a result of all of this the European weapons manufacturers stand ready to fill any vacuum thus created.
The British policy is in direct contradiction to our President’s aims. It allows that customers should be able to choose their requirements, and how anxious they are to oblige in this lucrative field of overseas sales. France is not a wit behind in its desire for such business. With a far less self-critical attitude one British salesman said, “If you Americans want to cut your own throats that’s your business.” Such salesmen, and they include Germans and other industrial nations, are working the oil rich countries of the Near East. This is the area where the United States is most concerned and anxious to promote stability. Unfortunately, the sale of arms in this region is the principal means of energy-short nations’ ability to pay their astronomical oil bills.
So it goes. The nations, too, are in this dog eat dog element. All of this must be galling and frustrating to the pacifist. His cause is hopeless whether he realizes it or not. Solomon found this out long ago when he wrote, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered” (Ecclesiastes 1:15). This is especially apparent in attempting to mend the bents of human nature. “Right forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne” was the observation of Lowell a hundred years ago. Everything earthly in the final analysis is an operation in futility. This will always be as long as sin and death are the reigning factors of our present existence. Again, we quote Solomon: “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence they come, thither they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). If we with the support of Scripture paint a morbid picture of this present evil world, remember that some of the world’s deepest thinkers have gone one better. It was Henley that described it as “black as the pit from pole to pole.” Jonathan Swift, the British satirist, mused, “Life is a comedy to him who thinks; a tragedy to him who feels.” The old anti-war marcher, and certainly no puritan, Bertrand Russell, said, “Philosophy proved a washout to me 97 years.” A more balanced reasoning comes from another source and observes, “Man is neither so miserable as infinite malice could accomplish, nor so happy as infinite beneficence could cause. There must be another ingredient, another dimension where the secret lies.”
Christianity holds the secret. In a nutshell it is the discovery of salvation from sin’s guilt and power through Christ’s work on the cross and His present session at God’s right hand, and that from conversion to eternity we are to learn deep lessons that not even heaven could afford us.
Health officials tell us that one in every four American workers is exposed in his work to substances dangerous to health. Well over half a million are in contact with cancer-forming agents. Most are unaware of these hazards. Now Congress is deciding to do something. If it cannot force action at this juncture it can “at least,” says Senator Harrison Williams (D., N. J.), “notify them of existing hazards.” A Committee member says, “Employees can’t protect themselves unless they know to what they are exposed in the workplace.” There is lack of complete information in many areas and what could be done anyway in some cases. Coal miners are subject to “black lung.” One also wonders just how much a worker contributes to his health liabilities by his drinking and smoking habits.
Actually, there is no place to hide. There are dangers in most everything we undertake. It is a price we are paying for our high standard of living. So the pressure is on for Congress to legislate on the issue of workers’ protection-education-health care-compensation. We are living in a paternalistic age. Sentinels abound everywhere, watching for any exploitation of the weaker elements of society. One cannot always quarrel with their findings and goals. Too often there is blindness in tight-fisted economics. With the sights set on temporary welfare, man has lost interest in his eternal security. God has cursed the ground for man’s sake; consequently, his search and attempt to produce a utopia down here will always be frustrated. We live in a world of divine laws. Their teachings can be ignored but not their disciplines. While sin and death rule the world, the story of Jesus will never grow old. Like the barking dog running after a car: what would he do with it if he got it? A perfect society would be the ultimate in boredom to those who are still gripped by their sinful nature. That is what the new birth is all about; it prepares us to love righteousness. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”