Thursday, May 23, 2013

value reversal and marginalization

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 

Isaiah 5:20

It would be real easy to use this verse as a barometer for current society. But it would be twisting scripture to do so. No, really... this is not a verse about 21st century America. It would be bad application. Here's why... 1) The verse was not given to a society at large but to the people of God. It was written to the residents of Judah about the residents of Judah. This is a description of God's covenant people and not of the world. 2) The context is God calling His people back to Him, not just railing on their sinfulness. It is wrong to turn this verse into a chiding condemnation by ripping it from its context.

A tragedy was occurring among the Israelites. They had turned from God's Law. And the turn was so complete that they had a total reversal of values. We are talking a full 180 degrees. It's a U-Turn. What the Law called evil they thought of as good. God particularly takes them to task for seizing neighbor's property, abusing the poor, and seeking lives of drunken, wanton selfishness and pleasures that exploited the needy. It was this behavior that called evil good. Worse yet, they despised God's law and thought of it as wrong.

At the root of this problem of value reversal is the self-driven abandonment of God's truth. That is what God is decrying here through His prophet. And He expects His people to stay true to His Word and to follow His ways. He does not ever expect that of the world. So if anything, the passage informs the church and calls us to biblical strength even as our society mocks and abandons any notion of life with God. And mocking does not mean all people combat God. God is mocked most today by minimalization and not direct attack. Keep Christian religion a private opinion out of the public square discussion of ideas and the truth is successfully marginalized. And when Christians capitulate to this, it just gets really easy to live like the world does. We can pigeonhole our faith and live like a worldling.

I've seen it happen to the evangelical church in my lifetime. It did not come from the big, bad world. It came from within. We chose to slowly diminish the Word of God and our commitment to God through living out its dictates. We exalted what we wanted. We polled our neighborhoods, softened the gospel to meet their felt needs, drew huge crowds and the light has dimmed in the process. It happened a century ago in the mainline denominations with liberal theology capitulating to scientific naturalism. It happened 20 years ago with seeker sensitivity capitulating to pop psychology. And God help us... we must return to the blazing center of the gospel of Jesus Christ while we still can!

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