This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on April 15, 2012. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Prov 29B.
There is a lot of talk in the church about the evils of modern society, and differing opinions about what the church is supposed to be doing. Some say that we should make more laws to outlaw and restrain evil – some say that we should have less laws. Some say that we could solve the problem by putting prayer back in the schools, or by putting the ten commandments on public buildings – or leaving them on public buildings.
This morning we want to look at a series of proverbs that expose the brokenness of human society. The fact that these proverbs were written down thousands of years ago – and that they are still very good descriptions of society today – is testimony to the fact that our modern problems are nothing new. Violence and lawsuits and selfishness have always been around. But this morning we want to look at this ancient wisdom and to try to understand how to respond to these things? What, if anything, is the church called to do in the face of an evil society?
LOOK AT THE UNDERLYING FORCES THAT CONTROL SOCIETY.
Society is Selfish: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”. Let’s state this verse another way: It is wicked to have no concern for those in need. Selfishness is not just a personal evil – it is a society driving evil. This is nothing new. Our society is not the first to be driven by greed. Selfishness is bound in the heart of mankind. We are driven by our appetites and selfish desires for more and more. Selfishness is a perpetual problem, even in the church…
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” – James 4:1-3
Selfishness is causing quarrels and fighting and murder and injustice – selfishness which is inside every person.
Society is Discontent: “Mockers stir up a city…”. There are plenty of angry, cynical, discontent people who are ready to stir up trouble. Mockers are those who belittle, make fun of, and generally attack what they don’t like. In modern society we have given them radio shows so that they can stir up even more people.
But mockers are able to stir up people because we are ready to listen to anger and discontent. Discontentment and anger are in our hearts – they tend to drive what we buy, how we view the world, how we feel. Our society is one that is driven and stirred up by emotion. This, again, is obviously not unique to the modern world.
Society is Unwilling to Make Peace: “If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace”. We are a litigious society. People go to court – and go on tv – so that they can rage at one another and mock one another. Paul uses a description from the OT (Is.59) that could be describing a modern day tv court show…“…there is no one who does good, not even one.”“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
People do not know the way of peace! People rage at one another and bring lawsuits and slander one another. Our hearts are not set on peace.
Society is Violent: “The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.” Specifically, what this verse says is that the violent hate people who are forthright in telling the truth in difficult situations – people with integrity.
We are a violent society. We are entertained by violence. Violence, which comes out either in our actions or in our words – and which is often going on in our minds – is in our hearts. Violence is our way of feeling safe – in control – powerful.
Society Complains and Rages: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end”. We are a society of complainers. We are people who tend to speak without self-control or wisdom. It is in our hearts to vent our rage and frustration about situations without regard for the effect of our words.
THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO BE A NEW SOCIETY OF PEACE.
Society is broken, but the church has been called out of the world to become a new society. Jesus has become – through his death and resurrection – the King of a new society – a society of peace. Jesus is the King of peace. This means two things:
(1) Personally – it means that we are called out of the world – not called to leave the world and go live on an island – but called to turn away from the broken ways in which our society speaks and acts and lives. And although these broken, sinful tendencies are still in us – we have been offered forgiveness, and the power to turn away from these evil tendencies to a new way of life.
(2) Publicly – it means that God has chosen the church to be the recruiting ground and a light to the world. The church is to be the place where people see peace on earth. The church is to be the place where answers and our response to society is creative and beautiful and healing. Our attitudes and practices should look so different from those of the world that people are drawn to Jesus, the king of peace.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
~ Practice Compassion and Justice Towards the Poor – There are ministries like no greater love and CHAT. You can support a family through world vision or help a family through social services. However, whatever you choose to do – you should do it not to fix the poor – but in order to show justice and compassion.
~ Turn Away from That which Stirs You Up to Anger – “…wise men turn away from anger” – Think about the things you listen to – the attitudes anger creates in you towards others. Recognize that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God wants in your life.
~ Find Ways to make Peace – We know the way of peace – specifically, Jesus made peace with us at his own expense. Peace-making is a matter of showing consideration for the enemy – being full of mercy, impartial and sincere (James 3:17-18). Be particularly careful not to scoff at your enemy.
~ Refuse the Use of Force and Retaliation – This may sound easy – we don’t want to be violent people. But consider refusing to use force in the way you speak. Refuse to tear down – refuse to accuse people – refuse to win an argument.
~ Turn from venting rage to calm – “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” – Phil.2:14-15.
~ Read Romans 8:9-21
Wait in Hope: Why do we do these things? Are we hoping, by our example, to turn America into a Christian nation? No. In fact, we are looking for a new country – a heavenly one – Heb.11:13-16. We are strangers on earth – earth is not our final resting place. We live this way because we are living as God’s new society but also in we are living in anticipation of God’s new society.