Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: Grieving the State of God's People

Jeremiah the Weeping Prophet
Currently, where I am, it is 9:38 PM on December 31, 2017. These are the last hours of the year that just closed.

So much transpired in 2017, much of which I am trying to understand by writing longer articles to be submitted to journals elsewhere. For now, on English Manif itself, I am sticking with the  theme of "Mapping the Swamp" for several months, trying to use this platform to help whoever reads this blog, in the important task of understanding the Swamp we fight. If we understand it and know how and where its parts work, we will be more effective at conquering it in 2018 or perhaps another year not long after.

For today, I want to focus on the important role of grief and lamentation. While it is New Year's Eve, I am not celebrating. I am not rejoicing. I allowed myself joy and levity for Christmas, as I called to mind the many things I need to remember about the birth of Jesus Christ. There is a role, however, for the opposite of rejoicing--for feeling the full weight of society's wrongs against Jesus Christ. For the Swamp we fight has gradually become more understandable and identifiable to me. I know now that the Swamp is really the space of absence from Jesus Christ. It is ungodliness above all that is driving the social and political corruption that we learned, in 2017, we must fight with all our power.


Once you see that the Swamp is the absence of Jesus Christ, you can understand the deeply personal nature of fighting corruption around us. We fight the Swamp out of faith, hope, and most of all love for Jesus Christ. The Swamp came into being because so many people did not understand politics this way. They believed that they could have an ethical discourse without God. They wanted to run society and set up a moral system their way, without submitting first to the absolute authority of our merciful God, Jesus Christ. The left's complete rejection of God filled the swamp first and foremost. But the "apolitical" in American society also fell prey to the siren's song of empirical science without God, believing they could order a livable (even utopian society) by steeping themselves in reason, without the full light of God. Lastly, many on the right added another layer of scum to the Swamp, because many conservatives, even as they proclaimed their obedience to God, did not trust in His providence. Because they feared that God's Holy Name could not ultimately deliver them from the totalitarian repressions of the left, they became cowards, placing their trust in earthly arguments and earthly weapons. They removed us more from God even as they claimed to be the religious party in society.

The Swamp is defined by a personal absence-it is a place deprived of the presence of a person, Jesus Christ. The devil is thoroughly immersed in the Swamp, but we are not principally motivated by hatred of the devil. First and foremost, we love God and want to bring God's love into the Swamp. We must fight the devil so that God can come to those who are drowning in it.

I learned so much about the fight against the Swamp through daily Bible reading this year. Beginning in mid-December 2016, I followed a strict regime of reading Bible chapters each day. A few busy patches caused me to slip and not tweet out my Bible verses  as religiously as I wished I had. But for the most part, I was diligent and consistent. Many surprises blindsided me as I did this intensive study of the Bible. I had read the Bible before but by studying it every day, certain verses struck me that would have gotten lost in a drawn-out reading of the Bible from start to finish. It ended up that on the last day of 2017, I was reading Deuteronomy 11, James 5, and Isaiah 19. So imagine my wonder at finding that this verse by chance fell on my reading schedule on the New Year's Eve:




 

God is always watching over it from the beginning to the end of the year. All of time belongs to God. We can celebrate on New Year's Eve, but is it fitting to do so? Every moment of our lives, we must act with Jesus as our reference point. And I cannot rejoice as this year ends, because I know that God's people fell short of the glory worthy of Jesus. We lost many important battles in the fight against the Swamp. Hence, this passage from James 5 also struck me as important:




 
As it was deeply impressed on me as I read Jeremiah and Lamentations, as well as other prophetic passages, grief is important. We speak of "repentance," rightfully so, because we must repent in order to fight the Swamp where unrepentance--shamelessness, actually--is the rule. But repentance is very individual. Grieving and lamentation can lead individuals to repent, but they also play an important role for all of us as the body of Christ. We must take moments to feel the deep tragedy that is daily being inflicted upon God. Made in God's image, we must open our hearts so that we feel His anger, pain, and disappointment at the way that His people have behaved.

Multiple warnings in the Bible tell us that if we feel convicted, we should avoid the house of mirth and merriment. We should go instead to the house of mourning, to grieve and witness the pain of living in a thoroughly corrupted world. A Swamp. For that is what mapping the Swamp is all about.

So tonight, as we head toward the final hours of a year full of heartbreak for the Lord our God, I will not rejoice. We as believers are in no position to rejoice at the year that has passed. We must do as James tell us in the same fifth chapter of his letter--"strengthen your hearts, be patient, and endure"--but that is for the next year, 2018. We should not be fooled into making merry when there is so much we must account for.

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, because his verses are full of so much pain and despondence. He was beautiful in his grief. His poetry, while sad, was a fitting honor to God, because it reflected his obedience and devotion to God and an acknowledgment that we anger God, because God loves us. Knowing that God can be angry when we fail, we show our love by fighting the Swamp. That is why it is written: