One of the lies that we keep being led to believe is that the troubles that the church faces today are something new. They are so new and so novel that they threaten the church in ways that the church has never been threatened before. There are preachers - and a culture - that are telling us that we are the reason the church is going to die, because we simply can't get our act together.
This is why it is so important for us to read our Bible, even the Old Testament parts of it, when we're looking for information about how we're supposed to live together. Yes, the New Testament teaches us about the church and about living under grace and about community, and it has plenty to say about getting it wrong and getting it right, about repentance, about making sure our first love remains our first love. But the Old Testament, too, teaches us about being a people of God, about sharing each other's burdens, about responsibility and atonement.
And the truth is that the things that we're facing today are not new. This is not the first time that the people of God have come up against themselves in the way that we're coming up against ourselves today. This is not the first generation of a wannabe-faithful people to mess everything up. And if the people of God have survived thousands of years of the same foolishness we're facing right now, we can be sure that the people of God will survive this, too - if we want to. If we can hold onto the wisdom that God has already given us and the examples He's already written for us and stop pretending that we have to come up with something entirely new to get us out of this mess.
Because here's kind of the rub, if you're following along with all of this - we're living under a faith that says that God stopped talking roughly 2000 years ago. We closed our canon, locked in our Bible, and told the believing world, "This is all you get. God's got nothing else to say until the trumpet sounds and by then, it's going to be too late." And then, we tell ourselves that what we're facing is new, that nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of God's people.
So then, what? We are, naturally, left to ourselves to figure our way out of it. It's up to us to come up with the solution to our broken fellowship. It's all on our shoulders to navigate what righteousness must look like in an era where we are getting it very wrong (so obviously, then, it must take something different now to be righteous than it ever has before, right?) but where God is not going to speak and tell us what to do (because God doesn't speak).
No wonder we are rife with false prophets right now! All you have to do to gain the ear of the faithful is to come up with something that sounds halfway decent, and everyone's listening to you. And then, sadly, what most of these false prophets have to say is...we're doomed. We're killing the church. We are so sinful, so backward, and so unique in our sin and backwardness that the very church herself is at stake.
The same church, remember, that Jesus said even Hell would not rattle.
Yeah, that church. We are killing it.
Are you a force bigger than Hell?
Anyway, this is why we have to know the kinds of stories that we're talking about this week, stuff like Ezekiel 34. Because the truth is, what we're going through as a people of God is not new. It's not unique. God's people have been broken from the very first bite of fruit in the Garden, and we're still broken, and while that's sad, it's not fatal. It's not hopeless.
After all, we still have Jesus, our living hope.