Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When is it Better to Be in the Minority?

It is strange, but I often wrestle with how much of my writing is for myself or for others. I would like to think that I write and teach and blog to help inform, educate, and guide others. However, there are many lessons I teach and posts I write that I can't help but admit are more about "self-therapy." Today's post is one such case. It is a reminder of how important it is to remember that God's kingdom operates by different values than our world. Seeking popularity and approval and comfort could take me on a course away from God's will rather than toward it.

Specifically, the myth I want to confront is the thinking that if something is right, then there will be consensus among the masses indicating so. Spiritually, I find it necessary to proceed with caution like a tightrope walker. On the one side, rebellious, individualistic renegades find their demise when they separate from God's ordained faith community and stand alone in pride. On the other side, though, is the much more common and subtle trap often cloaked in this positive twist: "If this is God's will, then surely the Spirit will bring agreement among the people (congregation, staff, family, etc.)." There are times to be on either side, and times to be on neither.

What prompts all this cogitation is Frank Viola's account of a part of Old Testament history that I had not considered before reading From Eternity to Here (2009). Let's go back in time to the 6th century B.C. era. Israel is taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Two million Israelites are displaced to Babylon for 70 years.

The critical piece to remember is that God's purpose and plan for Israel was to worship in one temple in Jerusalem back in the Promised Land of his people. Seventy years pass and the captivity is brought to an end. The people of Israel are allowed to return to Jerusalem where God intended for them to be. And about 50,000 of them do just that.

Look at the bold numbers again.

2,000,000 leave.
50,000 go back.

Admitting that there may be a slight change in overall numbers over seven decades, we still see that only 2-3% of the Israelites return to their homeland! A small remnant! Overwhelmingly, most decide to stay in a foreign land where they had grown comfortable, and in some cases, even prosperous. Despite confusion and mixed religious practices that profaned the worship of God, the price to pull themselves away was more than they would pay.

Sometimes doing the right thing is not backed by the majority. It is often rationalized away. And the lesson 2500 years later hasn't changed, following through with what is right in the midst of a comfortable society usually comes at a cost.

Viola's warning echoes in my head like sounds in a haunted house: "You can never satisfy the dream of God while living in Babylon" (p. 183-184).

Lord, where am I living now?

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