Yes, you read that right. I believe that God is tearing away church influence. Let me explain.
This morning while I was spending time with God I was reading the book of Jeremiah and came across something I thought extremely profound:
“2“Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:
” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
9 ” ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.
12 ” ‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.’”
Those are some powerful words of warning from the Lord to His children. The pinnacle of this passage is verses 12-15, something I want to look at closer.
Vs 12: Shiloh was the center of worship for all twelve of Israel’s tribes throughout the eras of Joshua and Judges. It is where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were first set up as God’s resting place (Joshua 18:1).
Vs 13: The Lord succinctly summarizes to His children what they have done to themselves and the rest of the world as a representative of His name and His church (see vvs 2-11) while continually calling them again and again to not continue in their ways.
Vs. 14-15: A clear reminder that what happened in Shiloh, God thrusting His presence away from the “designated place of worship,” will once again occur today as His children continue to:
1. Trust in deceptive words that are worthless (vvs. 4 and Eight)
2. Mistreat each other (vs. 5)
3. Oppress the alien (vs. 6)
4. Oppress the fatherless (vs. 6)
5. Oppress the widow (vs. 6)6. Shed innocent blood (vs. 6) – and this is not just murder, but also blood that was shed due to the church not welcoming outcasts and providing shelter.
7. Steal (vs. 9)
8. Commit Adultery (vs. 9)
9. Perjury (vs. 9)
10. Worship things not God (vs. 9)
11. Stand before God and ask for shelter amidst all of the aforementioned actions (vs. 10-11)
With all of these things happening in God’s name back then, is it any wonder He thrust Himself away from the church and gave them no influence? No.
Then my thought is, with all of these things happening in God’s name today as well, is it any wonder why the church finds herself in the same predicament that God is thrusting Himself away and giving us no influence? No … it’s not a surprise. You don’t believe me? Let’s go through them in numbered order:
1. Here is a quick example that Tony Campolo told me once: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”: Jesus never said that. Jesus said, love the sinner and hate the sin in your own life.
2. Do I really have to give any examples of this happening in our churches – brother to brother, sister to sister?
3. Why are our churches fighting to close our boarders, and then deport those who are “illegal” and yet have been working here for decades and paying taxes like the rest of us?
4 and 5: Are mentoring and single mother programs mandatory in every church?
6. How many deaths have occurred because the church didn’t take someone in, in their time of most need?
7. This is not just property, it is also misappropriation of funds including reimbursements that look perfectly legal on paper, and yet are not in the scope of church ministry.
8. How many pastors step down because of this?
9. The church is now big business—when productivity drops, the accusations rise.
10.Even in the culture war of GLBT and conservativism, I feel both have started to worship the fighting—which has become the norm, the M.O., the only way to handle things. And when someone messes with that, they’re messing with the idol.
11. How much longer can we beg God for peace and protection when we’re not offering any of it ourselves?
Just as in verse 13, God is calling us to His ideal and we’re not listening. Two prominent lessons are applicable here: History repeats itself and God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I believe both of those to be true, and today’s church is repeating what the Israelites did, and God in His unchanging ways, is also repeating what He did. Whoa to us that we’re not listening. We’re not reading the Bible to see the errors in our ways. We’re not looking at history clearly repeating itself over and over again—all the while God is pleading, yearning, desperately calling us to reclaim what it is to live a real, authentic faith in this life. And what has happened because of it?
God is intentionally leaving the church to itself. It is the church who now speaks louder than any of her actions can recoup. God wants our hearts, not our politics or rituals or dogmatic practices that we think draw us closer to Him. And until we realize this, God is separated from the church.
I would love to hear your thoughts.