As I was starting my morning with God today, and reading his Words to find out what he might have to say today, it felt like I was reading directly about our time and culture. Yet it was the book Ezekiel, written around 571 B.C. that spoke about God’s heart for his people.
“Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice” – Ezekiel 22:23-29
I can read this and picture horrendous church corruption that gives Jesus a bad name when you hear about things like priests and child molestation, greedy pastors guilting congregations for tithes and then owning personal jets, and prophecies about the end of the world that don’t come true. Yet none of those extremeties really hits home for most of us.
What may actually be worse, is the subtle ways we as the church live this way and don’t even notice. The subtle weakening of the church that destroys our witness. I thought about a conversation with my sister and brother-in-law this weekend about church discipline (or lack thereof) and the tendency of the Church in general (and that means all of us) to just let sin go with a heaping measure of grace that never requires change. How we handle unbiblical behavior with so much “love” and “grace” that we’re actually hurting our own friends and church families by letting them live in sin that’s destroying their lives. Then when we receive truly loving correction, we rebuke it and become defensive, as if the person trying to help us is trying to hurt us.
How often in our churches – and in our personal walks with God – do we make no distinction between holy and common, clean and unclean, and just let it all go? At least in Hollywood, where many people have been burned by the church, I can say that quite often we just let it all blend together and allow people to live less-than-quality lives in the name of acceptance, grace, and fear of offending anyone.
Even Sabbath – I know I often ignore the idea of sabbath and being set apart, and look just like the rest of the hurried, production-obsessed people in this city. I act like I have no God to give me rest and provide, just like those who don’t know him. Yet how often do we pause to think about these ways of life that are so normal in our culture that we have accepted, thereby making our witness say that life with God is no different than life without Him?
Then God tells Ezekiel:
“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”
Wow. God is looking for just one person, that one who will stand in the gap, pray and intercede, and build up the wall of holiness and Christ-likeness to save our lands. If there’d been one, destruction never would have come. But God could’t even find one.
And what a simple role to play, in some ways at least. To hold up standards that reflect the Word of God, and to simply pray for our city, is something that could save the places we live and the lives within them. What we do affects others….it’s not just all “going to hell in a handbasket”. Just one. That’s all God needs. Just one.
We can be those who let sin reside and slowly but surely wear down the integrity of the church and the laws God has created to actually give us the best, safest, most fulfiling ways to live. We can be part of the corruption, extortion, lies, and average lives, or we can be the one who stands. The one who God sees and says, “Because of your heart and courage, I should not destroy, but build up.”
Which will you be?