In this lonely, painful world, how can we have deep, meaningful relationships? How can we be true to each other?
In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor shouts “et tu Brute?” when he sees his close friend, Marcus Junius Brutus, among his assassins. Though most Americans are not plunging daggers into each other, relationships in the world, the United States, and even the Church are shriveling and dying. According to US Census Data in 2020, our population growth has slowed to its lowest point since the 1930s. Experts blame COVID and economic troubles, but this trend has been present for decades. Marriage is less common, and couples are having fewer children. People are having less sex, and even dating less. Research from the Barna Group indicates that Americans have fewer friends and higher levels of loneliness than in the past. Elders are less lonely than Boomers, who are less lonely than Gen X, who are less lonely than millennials. The stereotypical image of a lonely widow in our culture may be less common than that of a lonely teenage girl.
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Should Christians be angry? What are the dangers of human anger, and how do we avoid them?
Several weeks ago, my son David was engaged in a discussion with a classmate about whether a Christian should ever be angry. My son argued that God shows anger and Paul writes “Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26).” His disputant suggested that God alone can be angry, but humans never should. Like many conversations, this one dragged on, with neither man convincing the other. David remained calm, but his counterpart did not. Resolving nothing, they parted company.
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Life is exhausting, and ministry sometimes makes it worse. How can Christians be revived on our life’s journey?
Followers of Christ grow weary and sometimes fall away:
- Normal ups and downs of life and ministry – To be human is to encounter sickness, injury, and disappointment. Things break, opportunities vanish, relationships wither, and hopes fade. In ministry, people we love and serve angrily resist and reject. We labor for years with seemingly little effect.
- Major hurtful events and people in our lives – Sometimes even friends and loved ones succumb to the pressure of the world and reject us and our faith. Sometimes they end their own lives.
- Discrimination against and persecution of Christians in the United States (academic, political, economic) – We lose our jobs and other opportunities due to the practice of our faith. Christian schools are threatened with loss of accreditation, and Christians are seen as unfit for political office because of their beliefs. Christians have become criminals simply for reading a Bible passage or saying something that others don’t like. For example, H.R.5 – Equality Act 2019 – LGBTQ rights states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” Whatever one thinks about LGBTQ rights, religious beliefs would be no defense to prosecution (and persecution). Christians who believe what the Bible states about LGBTQ issues are specifically targeted.
Non-Christians encounter issues one and two, but increasingly Christians are facing problem three as well. It is so easy to despair. Amidst these challenges, how can believers in Jesus Christ be revived?
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The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was discontent and disobedient to his God. It destroyed him and his whole nation with him. How does his tragic experience inform and challenge us today?
Few Christians look at Jeremiah or the Old Testament prophets for guidance in modern life. Fewer still look at the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. But their folly and failure contain powerful lessons for followers of Christ today. Zedekiah is a good place to start.
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