Thursday, July 05, 2018

I. What’s wrong?

People are asking, What’s wrong? Has the world gone mad? And the answer is, yes, and it has been going mad for a long time. But the nature of that madness is not what most people think it is. The underlying cause of all the most destructive, wide-spread, and tormenting afflictions and deformities in society and in personal life is estrangement from God. This single fact explains everything we see and find alarming. Moreover, the process and progress of estrangement from God in our Western society has reached a point where one may legitimately ask whether the term “Christendom” means anything at all.
When we see (as we so often do) people acting out rivalry, strife, or enmity; or when we hear of people wasting their lives on empty pursuits like wealth, entertainment, or self-delusion; or when we read of people embracing isolation, anger, or despair, in response to the world’s false promises and true miseries, we should not respond with condemnation—we should see first and foremost that they are suffering because of their estrangement from God, that their deepest need is to end that estrangement, which is the root of all their troubles. This suffering must arouse our compassion, so that our response is the Gospel of the love of God.
Conveying the Gospel is neighbor-love, addressing our neighbor’s deepest need, the first and indispensable step towards our neighbor’s ultimate welfare. This does not mean that we should ignore other needs; alleviating misery in any of its forms is part of the Gospel, and sometimes this must come first before the Gospel can be heard. But God has promised that whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved. In the Gospel, we teach our neighbors how to call on the Lord in that way, from the heart, in faith.
These days, it is common to witness people engaged in personal self-destruction, in one of the many ways of self-destruction that the world offers. When we see this, our message is not, “Stop destroying yourself,” but “Learn the value of self through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” so that self-destruction is no longer attractive. Nothing less will suffice, because the underlying cause for the self-destructive impulse is estrangement from God, Who is the source of all true value.
In Western society, most of man’s many needs are satisfied to a degree unprecedented in history. The broad satisfaction of man’s needs has concealed the one great need for fellowship with God, so much, that in most plans for human welfare, that is, nutrition, schooling, medical care, psychological maturation, governance, and physical and economic security, that one great unsatisfied need can scarcely get any attention. It seems hopeless, but it is not. We must face the true condition of the world in which we have been placed. God asks us to confront and overcome the obstacles, not in our own strength but in His. For He has a plan.
The deepest pathology of the world is estrangement from God; the cure is reconciliation with God through the Gospel. It answers the need, whether for a single individual or for billions. In every context, we are called always to interpret the human condition in this way, not the secular world’s way, and act accordingly.


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