When I listen to the news there is one central recurring theme: the amount of suffering that is happening on an incredibly massive, global scale. Much of this has to do with the advancement of technologies that benefit the few who control them and that disenfranchise those who do not have access to them. Humans who are desperate for survival in this situation overwhelmingly respond by wanting to escape. Escape is acted out through the use of drugs and alcohol, entertainment, vicarious living, social media, social movements, and most interestingly, being distracted by the use of these technologies themselves. In this way life is gutted. There is no real freedom, no real purpose, no real passion, and most importantly, no real community.
Twenty-six hundred years ago Israel was defeated by the Babylonian empire and exiled. When Babylon was defeated by the Persian empire seventy years later the first exiles were allowed to return home. During the time of their exile their leaders proclaimed a response that went: hold on to your faith, take courage, God will intervene, and you will be saved from your misery. But after their return to their homeland, and after meditating on their plight of exile, and return, and the disappointment of not being able to regain their freedom, another deeply meditative literature emerged. This is the insight that life is not as simple as proclaiming that God favours the good and curses the bad. In essence, before their exile they would never have been able to come to this sophisticated realization that it is precisely in the midst of suffering that God is present, teaching and transforming, and building our characters.
The first followers of Christ identified his death apocalyptically; they certainly desired to be snatched out of the misery of persecution. But they also came to see the wisdom of God at work in his death and resurrection as well. If overwhelming rescue is God’s external action, then God’s wisdom at work in daily life is an internal overhaul of life by God working in our midst. Without emphasizing both, faith becomes lopsided. I think this is case for Christians today. If we look for intervention from outside we miss finding God here today; if we focus on devising daily interventions we step outside of God’s larger revelation, denying our total commitment to holistic living through the presence of Christ at work in eternity.
Suffering is a given. There is no escape. But we have a choice. That choice comes down to stepping away from the comfortably self-interested and incapacitated ways that sectarian Christianity has become preposterously irrelevant in society today. It means turning away from impotent notions of God. It entails turning to the model of ministry of Christ himself that the church has made trivial and obsolete through its on self-aggrandizement. And it calls us to stop espousing pathetically confused, new notions about what the church is about that fit the mad rush of twenty-first century life which create suffering in the first place.
The exposure of the radical, original, Biblical distinction between today’s religion and the work of God has been buried beneath the self-serving forensics of what is now an unbiblical, impotent, incoherent, and irrelevant supposed Christian witness in the world today.
But truth remains.
Christ’s historic witness applied in good faith over two thousand years.
Only a doubleminded person worships a church or a religion or a God or wastes their life simply trying to do good in a world that will continue to suffer precisely because of a misplaced and untrue faith.
Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.