The statistics don’t seem promising. The percentage of regular church-goers has been falling generation by generation for the last four generations. While the percentage of Americans that say they are Christian is high (relatively), a very high percentage of them say religion isn’t that important to them, and all religions are the same.
The usual accusation is that it is a significant cultural shift that is at fault. There is truth in that. There is also a denial of reality. Culture is always shifting. Sometimes it is slow. Sometimes it is fast. As we look around the world in places like China and India, there are fast and slow cultural shifts. The problem with this accusation is that it ignores the self. Without introspection and honest self-evaluation, the church will see the number decline.
This sounds depressing. It is, and it should be. We are called to be the light to the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. In many, perhaps even most, respects, the church has been (culture) warrior first and ambassador a distant last.
The good news is that God isn’t done—not with the world and not with us.
The triumph and joy of the passage of Isaiah is palpable. All nations would (willingly, longingly) submit to God. God would judge between nations echoes how the Israelite priests were to judge between the Israelite tribes and members. It foreshadows that all of humanity, not just the Israelites, would be equal before God.
The last piece always catches my attention in this passage. When I was a child, my mom had a button that said, “swords into plowshares.” She had joined (?) an arms reduction organization of some sort and explained weapons (tools of death) being transformed into agricultural tools (tools of life). Regardless of one feels about war (just war or not) or policing (or its abolishment), the concept of sword into plowshare is powerful. Humanity would no longer feel the need for war, for their deepest needs were being filled by God.
The selflessness that Paul alludes to comes from this same basic concept…the fallen nature of humanity to strive upon the backs of others is contrary to God’s desire for his creation. It isn’t merely weapons of war. This can include anything from cars to homes, to stuff, to power. It covers that which we seek to fill needs that ultimately will be filled by God.
While we can look at Isaiah’s passage as a human utopia, that isn’t it. We can look at Paul’s compliments of the Romans as sanctification, it isn’t that (it is, but it isn’t). What we see in both passages is that being fulfilled by God leads to us being fulfilled by others and seeking to fulfill others. Sounds pretty nice.
- Where do you see the vision of Isaiah being fulfilled in your life?
- Where do you see the vision of Paul being fulfilled in your life?
Lord, help us to bring “your Kingdom come” in the one area we can with your help…ourselves. Amen.