“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14
” You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9
We live in a world of turmoil, in a nation slowly crumbling to pieces and threatening to pull itself apart. We are bombarded daily with news of wars, of political intrigue and infighting, and cultural rot. We disagree with each other to the extent we’re unable to carry on a civil conversation on almost any subject. We mourn what seems to be the inevitable collapse of our nation, unless something drastic is done. We as the church wring our hands at our inability to influence our culture and the hostility toward us that seems to grow daily.
Christians sometimes seek to solve the world’s problems with the world’s tools in the world’s way, or we may fall into a sort of fatalistic thinking there’s little or nothing we as the church can do to influence our culture. Other than praying for our country we may hunker down and wait for the Lord’s return (I have sometimes been guilty of this line of thought, I must admit with a little shame). We engage in attempts at sharing the gospel, but privately may harbor an unspoken assumption it will fall on deaf ears.
I’d like to make an attempt at changing the argument and shifting the perspective. Rather than worrying that the United States and Western Civilization is in its decline, Christians need to consider the possibility that this is the Church’s time. Time to become what we should have been all along, the light of Christ to a world that has always been full of darkness, which is once again collapsing in on itself from the rot of sin and evil. Scripture and history suggest this. Many parallels are drawn between the decline of the Roman Empire and modern day America. In the ashes of the Roman Empire, Christianity grew and thrived. And like Rome, America’s problems are moral and spiritual, requiring a spiritual remedy. It needs what Christ offers, and the Church must be the ambassador to present it.
I’ve listed above some scriptures that seem pertinent to the discussion. The first is from the Old Testament book of Esther, about a Jewish queen in the Persian empire, who became important in saving the Jews scattered among the nation. The quotation is often used, and frequently misused, to indicate a certain individual or group whose time has come to act in a time of crisis. As inspiring as that may be, what precedes it is a bit blood-chilling: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” God’s plan and judgment will be carried out, but unless we become part of his plan we run the risk of being swept away in the same judgment that falls upon the nation.
It’s significant that the first images Christ uses to describe his followers are ‘salt’ and ‘light’. He calls us ‘a city on a hill’ whose light can be seen for miles, even in the darkest night. The apostle Peter calls us ‘a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’. My question is: do we live like we understand and really believe that? Do we have even an inkling of the implications of these scriptures? Do we understand the power available to us, and the incredible privilege it is to be a part of God’s people and plan? Or do we live in a half-hearted way, discouraged and focused on that annoying habit, that addiction, that secret sin, wondering if we’ll ever change, or worse yet, be forgiven? How can God use me to change the world?
The world is desperately searching for hope. Sadly, I fear many Christians are as well. We fail to find it because we worry about not “measuring up” to the Bible description of who we are and what we are intended to be and do. When we submit ourselves to Christ and allow him to break and empty us in order to fashion us into vessels fit to hold his spirit and glory, we gain access to all the powers and blessings of Heaven. Not because we’re ‘good enough’ but because of what Christ did through his death and resurrection. The characteristics Peter lists of God’s people are not to inflate our egos; they are the description of what we are in Christ, living in His image that shines through us.
Brothers and sisters, in a time where hope is a precious commodity becoming more difficult to find, we have it to offer in abundant measure. But in a hostile world that refuses to listen to any but its own voice, simply telling about it is not enough. Now is the time we must be the embodiment of it. Unless we become the living image of Christ as described to us in the Bible, many who are seeking hope will never find it. Our task is shine God’s light into the world, and let it draw others to Jesus Christ. Let it shine forth in the lives we live and the love we share for Christ and each other. This is our time; are we able to rise to the challenge?