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Posts Tagged ‘cultural relavence’

Several years ago I heard a sermon about the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34), called “When Faith Meets Desperation”.  Within that teaching, the speaker pointed out the necessity of having both the faith to believe, and the strong motivation to act on that faith.  While none of us would want to say that we must be desperate before we’ll act in faith, I do believe it is accurate to say that our natural tendency is to be far more responsive to what is seen than to what is unseen; which generally relegates “acting in faith” into the same category as a last resort.

 

This would seem to have been the plight of the woman in the story.  She had suffered for twelve years, and in Mark’s gospel we hear that she had been under the care of many doctors, spending all that she had, and yet she was only getting worse.  In Luke’s gospel it says, “No one could heal her”.  While her faith in Jesus was ultimately a credit to her, it only came to fruition after all of the other options were exhausted.

 

On numerous occasions over the years the Lord has held this woman up to me as an example of the church in America.  At one time her body had been strong, healthy, attractive…  She used to be an active member of the culture, but then the bleeding started.  Under the Jewish law, she was now perpetually “unclean”, which made her a type of outcast.   While she was still around, her relationship with, and her influence within, the community was greatly diminished.

 

Such is the church in America.  At our nation’s inception, it had embraced Christian principle as part of its foundation, and for the first 150 years it remained an accepted part of the culture.  But then the bleeding started; spotty at first, but soon developing into a hemorrhage.  With each successive generation, the percentage of people affiliating with “Christian” churches diminishes; and its influence within the culture deteriorates.  While she was once revered and seen as essential, she is now viewed as irrelevant, and in many cases is held in contempt.  Like the woman in the story, the church continues to exhaust itself, and its resources, to find its way back into the mainstream of society.

 

It’s hard to imagine what the “care of many doctors” might have consisted of back in biblical times, but those treatments may not have been any stranger or less effective than some of the things the church in America has attempted to regain its place in the culture.  In just about any Christian bookstore you’ll find a wall full of volumes filled with methodologies, formulas and/or spiritual sounding gimmicks to unlock the store houses of heaven.  Whether it is taking some obscure piece of scripture and building a doctrine out of it, or trying to use some legitimate principle of scripture as a token in God’s vending machine of blessing; it seems that there is an endless stream of ideas about how we as Christians might access the abundant life that Jesus died to give us.

 

All of this teaching might seem more virtuous if the scripture wasn’t already filled with direction on how to live; and if we in the church were already implementing those things in our walk.  Unfortunately ideas like repentance, holiness, humility, prayer, fasting, sacrifice, dying to self, service… aren’t selling many books, or filling many seats, these days.  Like people who want to lose weight, but who aren’t willing to sacrifice their favorite foods or to exercise, we’ll try any pill that claims to work and ignore the basic principles of how the body is designed to operate.  Of course God will not be mocked and He’s looking at what’s in our hearts.  His word says that He is faithful to reward those who diligently seek “Him” and not necessarily those who simply seek His manifest blessings.

 

Eventually the woman in this story had tried everything that was available and all that was left was Jesus.  He had become her only hope.  Who’s to say that if some new “doctor”, with some new claim for a cure, had showed up that she wouldn’t have been pulled away?  But in that critical moment Jesus was the only answer that was left.

 

I wonder what it will take for the church in America to get to that place.  Will there be a point when we grasp that if we don’t humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways and seek His face, before we pray that it won’t matter who we vote into office or who is on the Supreme Court.  Will there be a time when we recognize that the temple has become more a place of commerce than a house of prayer, and remember how Jesus responded to that the first time around.  Will there be a moment when we figure out that we can accomplish many things in Jesus’ name, but that if we’re not truly in relationship with Him, it won’t matter.  This woman’s healing hinged on her ability to fight through the crowded marketplace to get to Jesus; I’d suggest that the same is true for His church today.

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