When you understand what the gift of prophecy truly is - a gift of recognizing and speaking truth, rather than a gift of foretelling the future - it's not hard to see why our world stands in such desperate need of prophets.
We need persons who see clearly God's truth in our world and aren't afraid to speak it. We need those that see the path that we are on and are able to tell us where it will lead. We need those who will stand up and say the unpopular thing because it needs to be said, not because it's going to win any friends.
It's a hard place to be. We are often pushed into silence because of an intense pressure to fit in, to do what everyone else is doing, to be a friend to those we are journeying with. We want others to like us, and we don't want to be that person to kill all the joy. We don't want to be the prude in the bunch, and why would we? Christians have a bad reputation for being prudes, for being the first ones to say that we shouldn't be doing something, to be the ones to ruin everyone else's plans. We're the ones who, historically, have not wanted to go to the bar. Have not wanted to play cards. Have not wanted to dance. Have not wanted to kiss on the first date. And we say it all in the name of God because we have seen the path that these things can lead down, so we have declared rather boldly our intent to stay away. And our intent that everyone else stay away, too.
But this moral adherence is not the same thing as prophecy. It's not what we're talking about when we're talking about what the world needs, not in the most pressing sense, anyway. (Of course the world needs moral guidance wherever it can get it, but there's much more that the world needs right now.)
What the world needs most from us is our ability to see the lines and where they are getting blurred. To see where the world is trying to lump things in together that have no business being joined. To be able to identify what truth is and what truth is not. In our Christian realm and in the world's.
It starts, as it always has to, with holding our own truth accountable. With standing up and saying what is and what is not the Christian faith. This is hard because we have been told by our culture that faith is individualized, that it belongs to each person, that it is something different to everyone and that we cannot judge what someone else believes. This leads us to take a hands-off approach even to Christian truth. And if we can't even identify and proclaim our own truth, then how are we supposed to speak to the world?
So we start being the prophets the world needs by being the prophets of our own faith. By taking a stand against everything posing as Christianity that is no such thing at all. By declaring our allegiances and breaking the ties that bind to all else. By being willing to call out even our brothers and sisters who are holding to something less than truth and preaching something other than Christ.
And it is happening, all around us. We're just too afraid to say anything because all of these other persons claiming a different truth makes us question the truth we're sure of. It makes us wonder if maybe we're missing something. It makes us afraid to be wrong because we know we might learn something new tomorrow. We've been told to always be curious, to always let others teach us something we don't know.
But prophets don't work that way. Prophets know the truth and stand for it, even knowing God might turn it a different way tomorrow. Just look at Jonah. He knew that if he went and told the people of Nineveh the truth that God had spoken over them, it would cause them to change their behavior and that truth would not come to pass. And he was right. But nothing that transpired made Jonah's message any less truth. It was still absolute truth; it's just that the people listened to it.
That's what we can hope the world does to us. Just listens. Just hears what we have to say about truth. We started today with the truth we need to start calling out in the church first, with our own truth that we need to be bold enough to declare. But there are some things the world needs to hear about itself, too, and we must be willing to speak those things, as well.
We'll look at a couple of them tomorrow.