What we need to be praying for is that God would open our eyes now. We need to be praying that God would let us see ourselves and the world around us for what it really is. But this is a terrifying prospect.
I remember when I was young we lived in southern California, and one evening the electricity went out. My mom had been doing the dishes while preparing dinner, and we lit candles on the dinner table and sat down to eat in the dark. At some point during the meal the lights came back on and lo and behold someone went to take a drink and there was a dishrag in their drink glass. We all had a good laugh and someone got a new drink. But my point is that you can miss many things when you are in the dark. But when the light comes on, you have to deal with reality.
Sinful men in their rebellion love the darkness because it hides their evil deeds.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (Jn. 3:19-20).
If God opens our eyes it will be far worse than finding a dishrag in our drink glass. If God opens our eyes we will find that our table has been set with the butchered bodies of millions of unborn children, our cups will be full of blood and excrement, and we will suddenly realize that the condiments we have been spreading on our revolting feast is a mixture of semen and maggots. This is what our sin is. It is putrid and foul and obscene and degrading and shameful. This is our rebellion. And in the dark we boast about it. In the dark we raise toasts to it. In the dark we parade it around with pride. In the dark, we speak in serious, dignified tones, and grant awards and degrees and scholarships for those who serve up feces on a platter and call it a delicacy. We praise those academics and politicians who serve up unborn infant ribs with an aged toilet bowl glaze. And far too many people who name the name of Christ insist that if any light is to be allowed it should be very faint and very dim. Too much light is too harsh, too bright, too offensive. It hurts their eyes. It hurts their feelings. It gives them the wrong idea about Christ, and they insist that they be left in the dark, slurping their fecal water soup.
But every once in a while, lightening flashes and for a brief moment the whole world is lit up. And at this moment, a brief flash has occurred in the horrific story of Alfie Evans, the little baby dying in a British hospital. The horror of this particular situation is not merely the mysterious disease apparently taking this little boy’s life, but the insistence of a British court that Alfie’s parents may not remove their son from the hospital in order to seek out other forms of treatment. In the name of doing what is in the “best interests” of the child, the British court has usurped it’s authority with breathtaking arrogance and determined that Alfie must be refused life support and nourishment until he dies in the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Here in this moment, God is pulling back the curtain, lighting up our skies and shouting into our apathetic malaise. This is the end of autonomy. This is what you get when you insist that you will not have God rule over you, when you insist that you will not have Jesus be your King. The end of that path is always tyranny and death. There is no other option. There is no other way of freedom, life, or happiness except in Christ crucified, buried, and raised again and ascended as Lord and King of the world. The only options are Christ or death. Christ or tyranny. Christ or the cesspool.
But we need to ask God to open our eyes, not merely to see our vile mess, but we need Him to open our eyes to see how we got here, to see how the dots connect.
How does a British high court have anything to do with our current American bloodguilt and lusts? How does that kind of tyranny have anything to do with our billion dollar porn habit? Our greed? Our violence?
The connection is actually found in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The fundamental divide between all men comes down to this question: Are there fundamental, objective realities and truths, which are bedrock, immoveable, and immutable? Or is this world on a cosmic ride at the fair, spinning and lurching in a mindless cacophony of lights and carnies? If there are objective truths, then you can have such a thing as “unalienable rights” endowed by a Creator. If there are fundamental realities that are immutable, then it’s quite possible that all men are created equal. But if this universe is the sludge at the bottom of an intergalactic outhouse, “unalienable rights” is as meaningful as the sound your ketchup bottle makes when it’s almost empty.
So the question is: Are there really such things as unalienable rights or not? That is – are there rights given to individuals directly by their Creator which no individual, committee, congress, court, or mob may take away without just cause? This was an absolute claim, an objective, universal statement in our Declaration, but all sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3:4). Every sin is an act of rebellion not merely against our neighbor, not merely against our Maker, but also an act of rebellion against the very notion of law, against the very notion of immutable truths, foundational reality, what we used to call in the old days, facts. Lawlessness hates reality, hates truth; it rebels against all of those archaic, oppressive, and stifling notions such as gravity, logic, morality, and pesky definitions. Lawlessness demands the right to redefine anything and everything as needed.
The point is not that man can somehow be sinless. Every man, woman, and child has sinned; we have all broken the law. But repentance is the recognition of this. Repentance turns away from lawlessness and recognizes the truth, the facts, the reality, seeks forgiveness and puts things right. But the refusal to repent, the refusal to tell the truth about sin, that hardness of heart cannot be contained. You cannot harden your heart and justify pornography and lies over here, and pretend that you have any kind of moral high ground to stand on when someone wants to sleep with their secretary over there or embezzle a little money over here. By what standard will you make your demands? By what standard will you insist on heterosexual monogamy or fidelity or truth telling? Apart from repentance, you have no ground to stand on. You are being capricious in your application of the law. When men are in sin and they refuse to repent, they are insisting that it is OK to be selective in applying the law. They are not merely breaking the law; they are being lawless – anarchists. Because that is what they are doing, and they are demanding that everyone around them honor that. They are demanding that capricious and arbitrary application of the standards be the standard.
In other words, when injustice and evil go undisciplined and unpunished in families, churches, or nations, you are enshrining lawlessness. You are not merely letting one sin go, you are positively inviting all of the others. You are insisting that there is no absolute law, no absolute standard, and therefore, no fundamental reality, no unalienable rights. This is why James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (Js. 2:10-11). To break the law at one point is to break the whole law – not in the sense that you are thereby guilty of each and every individual sin/crime (though that will be true eventually) – but rather in the sense that you have broken the standard that upholds every single one of those individual laws. You cannot break one and stand there and insist that it is fine for you to break it and somehow that doesn’t effect anyone else, so mind your own business. No, that stubborn refusal to repent of evil is simultaneously a demand that there be no law at all because it all comes from the same Source, the same Law Giver.
In Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, he writes this about the United States Constitution: “A prime object of the Constitution was to be conservative; it was to guard the principles and machinery of State from capricious and ill-considered alteration.” Whatever conservative has come to mean, in its most basic, rudimentary sense, conservative simply means guarding certain principles from alteration. It means that there are certain things that are true all the way down. This is what the entire culture war is over. One side insists that truth and reality and morality is imagined and invented to suit the moment and tastes. The other side insists that truth and reality and morality is received and guarded regardless of how we feel about it.
So we need to ask God to open our eyes and let us see how we have done this, how we are doing this to ourselves and to our children. While sin and rebellion is as old as dirt, I suspect that a strong case can be made that our cultural rebellion actually began financially. When did our nation first begin making up reality? When did we first begin telling lies as a matter of official policy? Well, how about when we started making up the value of money? You cannot fabricate money by fiat and make up value out of thin air and then say that this will not affect anything else. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
So let’s see: we started making up our own reality, pretending to be the god of value, insisting that we could be our own standard when it came to the value of money, and what has this led to? Complete lawlessness. Rather, that very act is the very definition of lawlessness. We will have no fixed standard, no absolute law to measure value. We will have no law governing our money. We were offered riches and houses and cars in exchange for lawlessness. And of course the insanity of it all is that the whole American economy is built on an elaborate pyramid scheme. The US Treasury Department is the original Amway. As long as everyone keeps playing along, we can keep passing the buck while everyone skims off the top, but the fact of the matter is that there isn’t enough real money in the bank to cover all the notes. We are playing musical chairs, and sooner or later the music will stop, and when it does, we will find not just one chair missing but trillions.
But this is the point: it’s not merely that conservatives recognize that there is a universal law that must be received and guarded and the progressives want to invent and refashion truth and law however they like. It’s far worse than that. To insist that reality can be refashioned and re-imagined is to insist that there is a job opening for God. This is what it means to create reality, to endow dignity, to affirm morality, to decree righteousness and justice and mercy – this is the job description for God Almighty. So make no mistake: this culture war is not merely between those who would receive the law of the Triune God and guard it and those who are more agnostic and free spirited. No, the war is between the Living God and millions of rebel men and women who want His throne.
It turns out that only the living and Triune God can actually command value to appear ex nihilo – all of the other gods are false gods, including the US Treasury Department, the Supreme Court of the United States, the US President, the United Nations, and whoever dares defy the God of heaven. They cannot actually create real value out of nothing. They cannot actually create their own morality by fiat. They cannot declare boys can become girls or that two men can be married or that a human being is just a clump of cells. They are just magicians and illusionists playing games and lying. They keep oppressing us, and when we complain, they blame our God and His Christ and His Church. Just let us run these chains around your legs one more time, my pet, the goddess demands eerily, and then you will really be free. And so it’s no surprise that they are the principle powers who want to keep us in the dark. They do not want us to see because then we would see how disgusting and vile the whole scam really is.
This claim to deity and godhead is insane and therefore it is utterly capricious and arbitrary. The law always matches the character of the god it proceeds from. The living God is immutable, good, gracious, kind, and just, and His law does not waver, does not change, and it gives life. But the whims of man are many and bloody, and therefore, how will you object to Alfie Evans being starved to death in a British hospital? The State is your god. He commands value to come into existence. And he who commands value to come into existence may also decree when life begins, what love and marriage are, what it means to be a boy or a girl or a parent, and when it is time for you to die. You cannot take his payouts and then say you will not submit to his decrees. You cannot serve God and mammon.
But if God will open our eyes, we will be heartbroken and disgusted. If God is merciful and shines the light of Christ on our land, it will be far worse than we ever imagined. But when the light of the gospel shines it will reveal our nakedness, our shame, and it will reveal the nakedness and shame of our gods. They will be revealed as corpses, as sore-infested, toothless hags and creeps, clutching sticks and babbling incoherently. If God is merciful He will also turn our eyes to Jesus Christ, to see a good Man, the only Good Man who ever lived, who gladly came for us, who came for us in our insanity, in our defiance, and in our filth and shame – who not only came for us, but came down into our cesspool and submitted to the croaking blasphemies of our chosen gods who condemned him to die for our crimes, who led Him to the cross for our iniquities, the greatest sham of justice there ever was. And there He was mocked and scorned, and He took it all – all our spite, all our rage, all our shame – He took it all with Him down into the grave and crushed it’s God Damn head. He broke the spell, and He turned on the lights. And He welcomes all of us filthy creatures home. For free. And there’s a warm bath and a table spread with good food and a seat for everyone who will come.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is for this moment we are living in right now. It is for fools and monsters who have done the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the awful. It is for abusers and abused. It is for scoffers and schizophrenics, for politicians and pastors, for tribes and nations, for men and women, and yes, even for you.
O Lord, open our eyes, and let us see.