We’re Not Ruining Everything

You hear the refrain all the time:

These are strange times. This is unprecedented. We’ve got to take a stand before it’s too late! Etcetera.

But don’t worry. We’re not ruining everything.

The Church is having a moment. Some think it’s capitulating to culture, others believe we are selling out to the powerful. It’s a maddening predicament for folks on both sides.

But don’t worry. We’re not ruining everything. 

This is an important moment! What we decide now will have impact for decades…centuries…for generations to come! We are defining what it means to be the Church. We are undergoing a Reformation of sorts. We’re changing, the Church is. It’s a little scary, when you think about it. Right?

Don’t worry. We’re not ruining everything.

We’re funny, the Church. Every age, ever generation, every cohort of Christians who has ever lived has always thought that they were on the cusp of the apocalypse. The Fall of Rome would usher in the return of Christ. No? The Great Schism? No? What about the Revolutionary War? Has there ever been anything more apocalyptic than the Civil War? Those guys thought the world was coming to an end. It didn’t.

World War I? II?

NORTH KOREA HAS NUCLEAR WEAPONS! Just like Revelation says! Any day now…

In the same way that everyone has always thought that it was during their era, their age, on their watch that the actual, physical world was coming to an end, the same is true with the world sort of metaphorically “coming to an end.”

But the world is not coming to an end, my friend.

Don’t worry. We’re not ruining everything.

The election of Donald Trump will not ruin the Church, Church. Breathe deeply. In the same way that the right wing worried that “Name-Your-Democrat-Liberal-AntiChrist-Elected-Official” would ruin everything for the Church, no “Name-Your-Super-Conservative or Alt-Right-Windbag-Elected-Official” will ruin the Church, either.

Divide, possibly. But that’s always been the rub.

This is not a new problem.

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In Acts 15 and Galatians 2, there were some pretty sharp disputes. At hand was the issue of who to welcome into the Church, and what someone had to do belong. There was plenty of finger pointing going on. They didn’t want to ruin things.

The Early Church continued to struggle with it. They had “Apologists,” people whose writing and ministry was devoted to defending the Church and proper doctrine. They had to defend it because it was being attacked by people who would, unopposed, ruin it.

Constantine came along and made things a lot easier, in some ways (and much harder in others).

Some questioned the legalization of Christianity in the Roman empire not because they loved being burned to death for their belief in Christ, but because they knew power corrupted. Sure enough, within a couple hundred years you had the Church more powerful than ever. Ruined? Seemed that way to some.

Then there was the Reformation. Those in power thought Hus, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others were going to ruin everything. They forced a lot of change. Lots of people opposed them.

They didn’t even all like each other.

There was a lot of debating. If they’d had Facebook back then, you would have been simultaneously addicted to and repulsed by the threads, just like we are. You would’ve blocked people who kept sharing their stuff. Calvin, in particular, would’ve had a fondness for all caps, I think. The Pope, after excommunicating/burning everyone, surely thought it was all ruined.

1500 years of tradition, down the drain.

Don’t worry, Pope Leo X. We’re not ruining everything.

What to do, what to do?!

81% of evangelicals that voted in 2016 voted for Donald Trump — a “baby Christian” to some and just a baby to others. How could the Church go after him like that? He did claim that “no one reads the Bible more than me, okay?” during his campaign. That seems hyperbolic to me, frankly, but either way:

Don’t worry. We’re not ruining everything. 

The world is not coming to an end, metaphorically or otherwise. The Church has existed in so many eras, through so much turmoil. Yes, even through more challenging times than these.

During those times, everyone fought with each other and worried that the whole thing was going to self-destruct. The truth is, back then and now, nothing was being ruined.

It was being refined. 

You know what it takes to refine something, right?

It takes pressure.

It takes heat.

It takes things getting mixed up.

There are reactions. These are not small, subtle reactions, but large, violent ones. It is, by it’s very nature, unstable.

There’s another word for this when it comes to the Church: sanctification.

We are, and we have been, sanctified as a People.

Like our forefathers we fuss and fight and wring our hands in worry. We’ve replaced knock-down, drag-out Church councils with hostile social media threads. There’s a lot of finger pointing and fixating on the issues of the day. The good news is that our work for good and ill is temporary and God’s work is forever. We’re not ruining anything.

We’re taking our brokenness out on one another, which is bad. But we’re also figuring it out. We’re being refined. We’re continuing the time-tested tradition of being a messy people, but a People nonetheless. Sanctified by a Savior who saves us from our brokenness and mess and delivers us through our era — and through every era — bring us closer to Him.