How I love to tie things together. It all seems so obvious.
I had another “church” experience yesterday where, yet again, there was a missed opportunity by a pastor to relate a clear teaching of Scripture to our current cultural condition that is in dire need of repair.
There is a growing belief that the government will solve all our problems; that we bear little or no personal responsibility for our own lives, never mind caring about what else goes on in the world. There is no sense of “ownership” of our lives and the responsibilities that go along with ownership, whether it be our families or jobs. Increasingly our family responsibilities of child rearing, education, and health care are given up to the government. Our jobs are merely a paycheck without any sense of ownership and responsibility – the electorate's reliance on unions and big government make sure of that.
Government bureaucrats believe they must lord over the people so that overbearing and often unintended consequences of over-reaching Congressional legislation is enforced. The more government is in control, the more effective and powerful bureaucrats feel and the less space the rest of us have to be responsible for our own lives.
Two key examples of this downward spiraling cultural malaise are these:
- From the private sector: The notorious Obama fan who admits she voted for Obama because she gets free money – from where? From Obama’s “stash.” That video went viral because it is symbolic of the ignorance , laziness, and greed of too many millions of Americans.
- From the public sector: The Southwest Region EPA official who promoted the technique of “crucifying” (translated: harsh selective enforcement) those who violate the epidemic of environmental rules that depress incentive and productivity of our entrepreneurs. Even though Al Armendariz resigned his post to “remove a distraction”, as he put it, we all understand that his methods are pandemic and typical of the type of enforcement the bureaucrats are conditioned to carry out.
So, what Scripture do pastors often fail to relate to our pressing needs? Here it is. I’ve underlined the sections that reflect the lack of commitment and responsibility felt by those who have little attachment or care about their responsibilities – a behavior that is becoming the new normal in our culture:
John 10:11-18 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Most sermons on these verses focus on Christ and his laying down his life. But was Christ all about himself and not the lessons he wished to teach? I don’t think so. The second half of these verses shows Christ setting the example of personal responsibility to the point of giving his own life.
What is the lesson? Oh oh. It might be political. It might be applied to our situation today – to our culture and government. Churches avoid this discussion because they believe it verges on “politics” and politics should NEVER be discussed in church. I’m surprised religion is still discussed in churches at all because, as we often hear, never discuss religion or politics because someone might be offended. Phooey! What is politics, anyway? Politics is all about the balance between what we should do for ourselves and others and what government should do for us and others. Seems to me there is a tremenous overlap between religion and politics. Half of religion has not been discussed because of this.
The lessons that need to be taught from these verses are these: Too many of us act like hired hands who feel little sense of responsibility – to anything. Why? Government paternalism makes too many of us feel like hired hands with little sense of personal responsibility. Too many of us are demanding government assistance. The more dependent we become on government, the less sense of responsibility and commitment we feel to do the things we should be doing: Caring for our families, educating our kids, assisting our neighbors, saving for difficult times. Personal sacrifice is part of all of this. Even our religious ideals as expressed through Chrisitian institutions, not just churches, but hospitals, clinics, and other social services, is in jeopardy because of the overreaching arm of government control.
And here is the irony. The more we rely on government, the bigger and stronger we demand government become - and the more oppressive it becomes, to the point of bureaucrats adopting oppressive, crucifying methods of enforcement to make examples of us all.