“But if you bite and devour one another in partisan strife, be careful that you and your whole fellowship are not consumed by one another.” ― Galatians 5:15
I’ve got that iconic Beatles tune, A Day In The Life, stuck in my head. It was booming from someone’s boat as I strolled the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida this morning. The old Lennon/McCartney composition got me thinking about our daily headlines. My mind filled with a thousand distressing soundbites ending in one pervasive thought: we’re living in really dangerous times. Now before you break out in a chorus of “Golly, Ya think…” or “Really Sherlock…,” hear me out.
I am generally an optimistic person; a glass half full, we can do all things kind of guy. But, I am also a pragmatist who does not hide inside a bubble of denial or wishful thinking. My Christian worldview continually shapes my outlook on life. So, when the daily headlines start to sound like excerpts from the prophetic texts of scripture, I can’t help but take notice. “I read the news today… oh boy.”
It seems pretty clear to me that if certain cultural trends and vitriolic political rancor continue unabated, days of great distress will surly come upon us all. Perhaps the marvelous man from Galilee said it best, 25 “Every nation divided into groups that fight each other is going to be destroyed. Every city or family divided into groups that fight each other will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25 NLV)
“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and yet one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” ― Abraham Lincoln
On June 16, 1858 the Springfield, Illinois, Republican State Convention chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate. That evening, Lincoln delivered an address to the more than 1000 delegates which (borrowing from the words of Jesus) he entitled, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Mr. Lincoln was warned by friends to whom he read the finished address ahead of time that it was too radical and politically incorrect for the occasion. Nevertheless, Lincoln deliver the speech as written; arguing that the expression, (a house divided against itself), “…is a truth of all human experience…”, and that his intention was to use something familiar to his audience in order to “rouse them to the peril of the times.”  The threat of his time, of course, was slavery and the looming danger of a civil war. Mr. Lincoln warned the delegates that day,
“… A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
Lincoln lost his run for the Senate that year, but two years later, Nov 6th 1860, he would go on to be elected the 16th President of the United States. On Dec. 20 of that same year, South Carolina seceded from the Union; and on April 12, 1861, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. In a nation divided against itself, the Civil War had begun. In the end, the Unionists prevailed, order was restored, and for the time being the nation was saved from utter ruin.
Fast forward 150 years or so and what do we observe? The United States is anything but united. From my perspective, we live in a nation that is not only sharply divided, but continues to fundamentally dilute her national character. It’s getting harder and harder to find unaffected leaders who will defend the righteous principles that inspired our Constitution and enabled the USA to become a one-time envy of the world. Now-a-days, many of our marginally informed, blasé and increasingly lethargic population are eager to trade their liberty, privacy and sovereignty for a promise of freebie prosperity and temporary security. In essence, like biblical Esau who foolishly squandered his heritage for a mere bowl of soup, they unwittingly sell their precious birthright of freedom to satisfy short term desires. (Genesis 25:29–34)
“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ― George Washington
What about modern religion – Christianity in particular? Is it just me, or do we live in a time where so many of “the faithful” have redefined their traditional values for the sake of maintaining a cultural relevance? Sociological trends have spawned a new “all-inclusive” spiritual movement full of concessions to agnosticism. Today’s religious agnostics can be hard to spot. They often embrace spiritual principles and scriptural values because it helps them to comprehend some aspects of the human condition while still maintaining that any absolute truth is either subjective, unknown, or unknowable. Let’s just call this movement what it is: The First Church of the Ambiguous.
Then, of course, there are the multitudes who have either lost their faith altogether or never had any belief in a Creator to begin with. Today our society (secular and sacred) has become so fragmented by opinions and viewpoints that we now truly live in a “nation divided into groups that fight each other.” God help us.
One of the great Biblical authors was a man called Paul. He was born around 1 AD in Tarsus, an ancient city in Asia Minor. Paul was a very well educated man, and a passionate religious Jew who came to recognize that Jesus was the long awaited Liberator (Messiah), sent to the earth for the benefit and reclamation of mankind. A collection of his letters account for almost half the written content of the Newer Testament (13 books) and they are a major source of Christian Theology.
In one of those letters, written to his young protégé named Timothy, whom at the time was the overseer of a community of believers in the ancient Greek city known as Ephesus, Paul wrote these cautionary words,
1 “You should know this, Timothy, in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT)
Paul certainly does not mince words in describing how mankind would evolve down a long path of degradation. The way he defines the characteristics of human beings, particularly as we draw closer to the end of the age of man, is unnerving. Like it or not, Paul hit the nail on the head. Just look around. Could we be living in a period of the prophetically predicted, difficult times? An era when “faith in God” to some is little more than outward appearance, and to others utterly meaningless? I am beginning to believe that we are.
“I also believe that without his (God’s) concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a bye word down to future age.” ― Benjamin Franklin
There are contemporary writers and commentators who refer to the discord and social turmoil playing out before our eyes as a war between Political Parties. Others are calling it an ideological conflict between the viewpoints of Progressives, Socialists, and Conservatives. Some even say it is a struggle to defend our Democratic Constitutional Republic from those who wish to fundamentally transform society into a one world system – a.k.a. The New World Order. Listen, you can label the chaos whatever you like. My question is this: what is the underlying cause of it all? Could all of the societal dysfunction really be a spiritual problem? Are we witnessing a free-for-all between light and darkness? If so, what is the proper Christian response?
The political process is inherently dirty, tragically broken and miles away from the teachings of Jesus. Should we have an educated opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Of course. Should we vote? Absolutely. But as men and women of faith, we are not to simply choose sides and then engage in endless partisan arguments that only engender strife. (2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9) It’s time for the children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5) to truly understand what the Newer Testament writer Paul meant when he reminded the believers who lived in ancient Ephesus:
“…our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.” (Ephesians 6:12 Phillips)
Did you hear that? Our fight is a spiritual war waged in the realms of the unseen. Engaging in endless conflicts with our fellow passengers here on spaceship earth will only destroy our productivity, and diminish our effectiveness. If we are busy attacking one another, we can’t fight the real enemy.
The admonition of the scripture is to steer clear of people who live to make trouble and start fights (Romans 16:17). As I have already said, Christians most certainly should take a stand and speak out whenever necessary, but in doing so we must not become quarrelsome (2 Timothy 2:24). It’s called living in harmony with all mankind. (Romans 12:16, Hebrews 12:14)
“You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out. ― Thomas Kinkade
This world will continue to grow more and more dangerous. People will go right on rejecting one another, their Creator, and his redemptive plan. In fact, the Almighty will eventually expedite their ultimate delusional state. Say what? Absolutely. Here is what the scriptures have to say on that subject,
5-12 “I expect you remember now how I talked about this when I was with you. You will probably also remember how I used to talk about a “restraining power” which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this evil man (known as anti-christ). Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the “restraining power” (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen—though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – J.B. PHILLIPS)
The Lawless Man? Evil Spirits? Falsified signs and wonders? Deluded by evil? Yes, and a whole lot more. It’s going to get really bad here on spaceship earth. But we’ll save that discussion for another day.
No matter what the future holds, I’m not worried. I believe the teachings of scripture. The Liberator Jesus once said, “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light” (John 12:36). One day, (if our natural death does not occur first), the “restraining power of God will be removed”, and the children of light will be taken from the earth to escaping the wrath that is to come. Either way – we win! How about you?
 Herndon, op. cit., p. 325
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.