The Current Scene
The Attempted Assassination
At this time of writing the attempt on the President’s life eclipses all other news. We breathe a sigh of relief that his wound promises to heal without leaving permanent damage. The President has displayed a splendid degree of fortitude in his body and spirit. This has increased his popularity and gained further respect from the nation that had already given him such an endorsement at the polls. Persecution does not make martyrs but proves them to be such. As Christians just how dearly are we cuddling our own lives and unwilling to gamble with it for the furtherance of the gospel?
America has the highest homicide rate per capita of any country in the world. This is a paradox because the government is stable and orderly; witness how easily the Vice-President can fit into the normal processes if his superior is laid aside. Such stability is the envy of many governments in the world today. Furthermore, the nation is called to further stability in so many distraught areas in the world in spite of a shameful record at home. Certainly the U.S. is not the sick society that some suspect. Unfortunately, there are some very sick members of our society that exploit the civil liberties the Constitution guarantees. Others are saying it’s a bit of the jungle that still resides in everyone of us in spite of the distance in most areas evolution is supposed to have brought us. It is disturbing to encounter the application of evolution to the complexities of our world. Our best magazines give offhand references to evolution as a scientific fact. Actually it raises more imponderables than sound Christian theology.
The Christian doctrine of original sin means that the potential to commit any and every sin resides in the breast of everyone of us. Our Creator has endowed all of us with sufficient checks to keep us from running amuck. There is reason, conscience, will and history. On the other hand, we need stronger disciplines from without for those who will not control themselves from within. In the Old Testament when the law was enforced there were some eighteen capital offences. God is not soft on deliberate sinning as the law of Moses and the Great White Throne attest. As the hymn writer has put it, “There’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.” The wise Solomon observed in his day, “Because sentence against evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11). Our present laws appear encrusted with technicalities that enable clever lawyers to circumvent justice. One thing is certain, all will get a fair judgment in that last day (Rev. 20:11-12). A soldier about to be court-martialed gained an interview with General Lee for clemency, Lee said, “You will get justice, soldier,” to which he replied, “Sir, that’s just what I don’t want.” The existence of a righteous God demands ultimate justice. When the grace of Christ’s offered forgiveness is rejected, then the sinner must live with this dictum, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going to judgment; and some they follow after” (1 Tim. 5:24) .
We can thank God for the Divine institution of human government. The moment its iron hand is not felt pandemonium and anarchy immediately erupt, as witness what takes place when we have a blackout. Police and prisons allow most of us to enjoy a reasonable measure of peace and security.
The assailant in this attempt on the President’s life had no political axe to grind. The latest accounts tell us that he is just mentally sick — a loner. Often such develop uncomplimentary excesses or habits that could weaken one’s natural resistance to demon possession. Otherwise how are we to account for such a mindless act? Nor can we forget that it was an assassin’s bullet that killed the heir to the Austrian throne in 1914 which triggered World War I. Certainly this world is ruled (not overruled) “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
The Big Dilemma
All agree that the biggest problem facing our planet is the threat of a nuclear war. The Salt II is dead but not the awesome substance of the debate. The newest weapons are so devastating and frighteningly accurate that it is assumed the power that makes the first strike now has all the advantage. There is no defense against the oncoming missiles. The fear is a massive Pearl Harbour strategy. Even the experts are baffled at the complexities of the problem. In the cards, at the moment, is the possibility of an arms race. Even if the upcoming arsenal is never used the prohibitive price is such that it would occasion an economy of guns and not butter. Brezhnev has seized the initiative and invited a renewal of treaty talks. The move is adroit. A refusal to negotiate would make Reagan the possible troublemaker. The difficulty is the reasonable doubt as to Russia’s honesty. Would they cheat after a treaty is signed? Fortunately, reliable monitoring capabilities are now at our disposal. The treaty way seems preferable to an all-out arms race.
Another agent to perform man’s inhumanity to man is the revival of chemical warfare. The reaction to the use of mustard gas in World War I led to an agreement at Geneva in 1925 to ban all use of chemical and biological agents in warfare. This is being disregarded and now we hear of the most lethal gases and deadly germs.
All of the essentials for “the great tribulation” are being assembled. The widespread devastations described in the Revelation are now human possibilities. Still, God may choose to rain His judgments direct from heaven as he did in the days of Josiah; or there could be a combination of both. John the Baptist raised a pertinent question, “Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” We would change it to the imperative, “Flee from the wrath to come.”
The tragedy is that judgments more often harden men’s hearts rather than soften them. Isaiah has to beat a refrain in his early chapters because the judgments falling upon his people were not producing repentance. Four times he says, “For all of this His anger is not turned away, but His hand (of judgment) is stretched out still.” In the midst of the vial judgments of Revelation 16 we read that men “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores and repented not of their deeds.” The Christian accepts God’s overruling providence. This world is not his home; like Abraham, he looks “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).
The prophet Isaiah describes the virtues of the then coming Messiah when he writes of His mission to the world, “the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Many of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning Christ have been fulfilled; consider his 53rd chapter. The one relating to government awaits His second coming. Until then nations will have experimented with every system that the ingenuity of man’s mind can devise. Churchill in his readable volumes on The History of the English Speaking People refers to the last two hundred years as the era of “The Great Democracies.” President Lincoln summed it up as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Certainly wealth, privilege and opportunity have never been so reachable by so many. Because of the competitiveness of the free enterprise system the disadvantaged have been led to think that their best interests are served by Socialism or Communism. At this juncture in history we observe that these governments fail to produce man’s yearning for a Paradise. Poland reveals that where the masses can break through to express themselves they are disenchanted with Communism. Sweden and England have taken the Socialist route and discover it leads to national bankruptcy. Capitalism is blamed for depressions and recessions. The voters have shown their disgust with welfarism in Sweden, England and now America. President Reagan has a point when he declares free enterprise is the best way to create wealth from whence eventually come all the amenities. The poor complain that wealth is too slow in trickling down to them. Because man is a sinner equity in government is an impossibility. Those who are advantaged will see to that. Again this calls for the One Isaiah speaks about, “a king shall reign in righteousness and princes (His cabinet) shall rule in judgment.” If there is no literal millenium then this world will never know a perfect government — evolution to the contrary.