"Our Air-Conditioned Paradise"
Some months ago I read this statement, "A national figure gave an address in Washington, D.C. a few days ago. In it "he starts from a premise that almost nobody would care to dispute - that Communism is a twisted version of a powerful religious faith. It is the strongest of all Soviet Russia's weapons. America also, had its beginning in a mood of dedication and sacrifice, but while the ardor of the Reds is still at fever heat, ours has been allowed to cool in our air-conditioned paradise." One has but to be casually "in the know" of the current situation of our nation and disposition of the average American compared to the feeling of dedication to Americanism characteristic of the pioneer Americans to know the truthfulness. of the above statement. Dedicated to a cause considered worthy of personal sacrifice, our founding fathers labored to uphold America's basic principles of quality and freedom for all, and shunned not to warn the citizenship of dangers to those freedoms which lurked on the horizon. Today, one is considered "narrow," "bigoted," or "prejudiced" if he seeks to bring his fellow-Americans to an awareness of those same dangers.
Has our ardor not COOLED to such an extent that we refuse to be aroused from our say-nothing- against-our-neighbor policy in spite of situations in other lands brought on by the same organization which is gradually gaining more and more power in our own land, both in numbers and in winning the sympathy of, or closed-mouth policy of, Mr. Average American? I speak of Catholicism. How many really fear for the American Freedoms in Catholicism's hands? How many are able to be stirred by a knowledge of her bloody past or her tyrannical present in some lands? Who is more than passingly shaken by the recent events of Colombia, Italy and the present situation in Spain? Whose indignation is aroused when made aware of the history of such a nation as Spain, a nation of illiteracy and religious intolerance of any, but the state religion, a nation for centuries under Rome's rule? Exemplary of the condition is this statement from American Review of Eastern Orthodoxy, Vol. 5, No. 8, Oct. '59; "Spain prohibits 'non-Catholic' bodies to have street addresses, religious symbols on any exterior walls of buildings, etc." The editor then aptly states, "If so-called 'Protestant' Nations did this same thing to Catholics, the cry would be heard around the world." May America awake!
But it does not require stretching the thought, only an adaptation of it, to apply this same idea to the church of our Lord. Who is there to deny that there is a present trend toward "cooling in our air-conditioned paradise"?
The church had its beginning, almost within the very shadow of the cross, in a city just outside the gate of which only a few days previous the Savior of men died that "he might destrov him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb. 2:14.) By a glorious resurrection from the dead He was declared the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4). The events of the trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension were yet hot on the disciples lips. They were possessed with a burning desire to tell others the good news of the kingdom, the message of salvation in the name of this man Jesus. They felt the world could not do without that which they could give it. Theirs was the story of the Messiah; theirs was a glad song of redemption through His blood; theirs was a message of deliverance for souls in the bondage of sin. They were redeemed! They must lead the world to learn of that redemption!
The message thus delivered moved the people to simple obedience. The story of the love and conviction of these new converts may be seen in the early chapters of Acts. Their zeal, their fervor was at white heat even as they endured persecution to the point of being scattered abroad. Then, "they went everywhere preaching the word." (Acts 8:4.)
But eventually, the falling away of which the apostles so frequently warned swept the people of God. Their enthusiasm and ardor for maintaining a "thus saith the Lord" waned. The final outcome of it-Rome.
Men grew tired of the centuries of Rome's domination. Her corruption could no longer be tolerated, and those with no dread of personal harm nor fear of sacrifice endeavored to reform that apostate body. Diligence characterized their efforts! The religious world needed an awakening!
But seeing the need for more than reformation, others set out with a plea to "go back to the beginning." Interest and zeal reached a new acme as thousands sought to be "only Christians." The Lord's church enjoyed a rapid growth for here again was a dedicated people who felt the world must be freed from denominationalism's hold to be nothing but members of Christ's body. Theirs was a vital topic! The world must hear!
But has that ardor not been cooled in "our air-conditioned paradise"? Has the numerical increase not led multitudes to forget that only the hem of the garment has been touched? Has spiritual development kept pace with the numerical growth? The world still lies in sin and religious error, yet indifference and negligence afflict the people of God to an immeasurable degree. Have we not become like the Israel of Amos' day (Amos 6:1-6)?
Amos prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-29; Amos 1:1). By the hand of Joash, Jeroboam's father, Syria's oppression of Israel had been greatly relieved (2 Kings 13:5, 25). When Jeroboam became King, he was able to restore Israel's coast and give them further relief (2 Kings 14:25-28). But he failed to lead the people in right living (verse 24). It was a time of ease, prosperity; and peace from oppression. It was this situation Amos faced as he began to cry his warning only to have his preaching fall on ears that would not hear. Let us do some comparing.
We are now enjoying a period of prosperity, members of the body now possessing more material wealth than at perhaps any other time in the history of the church. It is a time of relative peace in the world, and like Israel of Amos' day, we are "at ease in Zion." Weakness of conviction is evident, worldliness is gaining sway in the church, and indifference to these conditions is on the upsurge. Like the Laodiceans, many are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm (Rev. 3:16). Individual endeavor is almost a thing of history.
As Amos accused his people of "putting far away the evil day" (verse 3), the lives of no small number of supposed Christians indicates that they "Put far away" the return of the Lord Jesus. How many are mindful that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. 13:11)? Is it possible some are using the argument of the scoffers mentioned by Peter (2 Peter 3:1-14) ? True it is that we know not the day of the Lord, but it is also true that we must be awake and watchful (I Thes. 5:1-5 )lest that day suddenly dawn upon us finding us unprepared (Mat. 24:36-39).
Amos had contended with Israel before her captivity saying, "Woe to them . . . that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock and the calves out of the of the midst of the stall." (Verse 1, 4). The practice of selfish living, leaving the scraps for the Lord is no "new thing under the sun." But the antiquity of a thing does not make it right if at its inception it was erroneous. While members of the Lord's church recline in their wealth and splendor, their ears become closed to the "Macedonian Call." In our "air-conditioned paradise" we seemingly are immune to the cries of lost souls (maybe our own) in a devil's hell.
"A society mad with desire for entertaininent" is a phrase fast becoming descriptive of our own society. If it isn't entertaining, we'll not have it. A thing must he fascinating and require no effort on our part to be of interest. Our yearning is for something to be had without exertion, physical or mental. Content with letting some elegant speaker poor forth highsounding phrases as we have "broken unto us the bread life," our Bible is a collector of dust, for he has done our studying for us, our actions intimate. Where today are the "more noble" souls who seek to find "whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11)? Call us not away from the "singing of idle songs to the sound of the viol" (Amos 6:5 ARV)!
While the hearts of many faithful children of God bleed when witnessing the introduction of innovation after innovation into the work and worship of the church, the heart of him who promotes it is as closed to reason as the heart of those who heard Amos declare, "Woe to them . . . that invent to themselves instruments of music like David." (Amos 6:5.)
'I'he kingdom of Israel was split asunder, yet while living "high on the hog," Amos' auditors refused to be "grieved with the affliction (breach, mar.) of Joseph." The promise of Amos was that they "shall go captive with the first that go captive."
May the day soon dawn when children of God will "awake, thou that sleepest" and "redeem the time, because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:14, 16) ! The crown is promised only to those "faithful unto death."
Truth Magazine IV:4, pp. 4-6