For those of us who live in the UK the events of the past week have been shocking and saddening. Today the Prime Minister declared that the UK had a “broken society” . Many are now searching for reasons as to why this eruption in social unrest should break upon these lands so quickly and with so little warning. Those of us who have watched the moral collapse of our country first hand are not surprised. But while we have long predicted that moral collapse would follow the wholesale abandonment of the UK’s Christian heritage, now is not a moment for “I told you so”.
For the last couple of months I have been studying the life of Elijah and his ministry to a backslidden and apostate Israel. Elijah realised that at the heart of the people’s problems was their broken relationship with God. So too in our day, I believe that the first place to look for a cause for our situation is at the door of the Christian church. God has appointed the church to be a light to the world, preserving the good, opposing the bad. Although a marginalised church cannot prevent a nation from self-destruction, if the light is not shining brightly then how great is the darkness?
Thus it is that for years in the UK there has been gradual deterioration in the faithfulness and purity of the church. The church has been under sustained attack and has not, on the whole, managed to withstand the attack. The result has been an undermining of our confidence and belief in the supremacy of scripture, the reality of judgement to come and the uniqueness and lordship of Jesus. Our modern liberals call themselves “Progressive” as they discard the historic truths of the Christian faith, our institutional leaders call themselves “Embracing” as they ride roughshod over central biblical truths on sexuality, edit out the miraculous from scripture and refuse to speak out on anti-Christian legislation.
The role of the prophet was to speak God’s eternal and unchanging truth into the ever-changing contemporary world. It was often an unpleasant word as they rebuked the indifference and compromise of the people, the hypocrisy and self-serving of the leaders and the dishonesty of the king. But there’s was no impersonal detached edict – it was the burning passion for the honour and glory of their God that etched itself across their souls. They spoke as they felt and they felt God’s heart – broken for the waywardness of his children who should know better, who should repent sooner, who should obey more wholeheartedly. Although they did speak judgement on the nations around Israel, they were not primarily concerned with these nations. Their first and primary calling was to the nation of Israel, to God’s own people, called through Abraham, rescued through Moses and exalted through David. They had had all the blessings and privileges possible, and still they abandoned Jehovah within two generations of the wilderness refugees.
And are we so different? We in the UK, indeed in Scotland, have a blessed heritage. Many prominent Christians have shaped this nation in the past centuries to give us as strong a foundation as anywhere in the world. But what type of building have we constructed on this foundation? When did our light go out in this dark nation? When did we cease to pass on the truths to the next generation? When was that connection of 2 Timothy 2.2 broken? Like the melting of an iceberg – imperceptible but continual, the erosion in historic Christianity has occurred. Gradually we lost our theology, then we lost our convictions, then we eventually lost our piety and practise. We were left with nothing to say and no one listening.
The word of the prophet speaks into the darkness – “Remember the height from which you have fallen and do the things that you did at first. You have lost your first love, but return and I will return to you, break up your unploughed ground and clear your filled wells. Come back in brokenness, humility and fear and I will heal you”. Only as there is a reformation in the church can the healing hope for our society be administered, for there is no one to administer it apart from the church. Our nation is looking for an answer and will look to every solution apart from God, but nevertheless, now is a moment for those in leadership to bring a prophetic message, mixed with tears of pain, to a wounded nation. Are we prepared for God to break us for our nation so that we can say: “streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” Psalm 119.136?
Father have mercy on us this day, remember your people, restore your church, bring hope to the nations. Father, give us the tears of the prophet broken for your people, the heart of the prophet to feel as you feel for the lost world, the mouth of the prophet to speak your truth into our hurting nation and give us the eyes of the prophet to see the glory of the coming king who will refine his church, judge the corrupt and restore the honour of his name in his world.