By Chris Watts
I suppose that every generation must come to believe that things are worse than they have ever been.
“Less people than ever care about Truth.”
“More people than ever want to live in open rebellion to God.”
“The morals of society are degrading to the worst point ever.”
In this respect, most of the generations since Christ’s ascension have been wrong. Yet, the past couple of generations might have been correct in believing this. Not entirely correct, but at least partially so.
If you think less people care about Truth, you are probably right. If it feels like the morals of society are degrading, of course they are! But it’s wrong to think that they are worse than they have ever been. It’s simply that they are worse compared to the aberration that was America in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies.
Jesus and his prophets were clear about what Christians should expect from the world: hatred, surprise, and insults (John 15:18-25, 1 Peter 4:1-6). Paul’s second letter to Timothy tells us what we should expect the world to care about: money, selfishness, and things that make them feel good. Jesus told us what percentage of society we should expect the church to be: the minority (Matthew 7:13-14). The world looks like this now! Yet for many in the last century and a half, especially in the United States, it probably didn’t feel that way. For a brief period of time, in part of the world, the moral norms of society lined up with Biblical truth maybe more than they ever have throughout history.
This makes the current trends of society seem so jarring, so depressing. For a while, you could be a Christian in America and the great majority thought it was right¸ even if they didn’t want to be Christians themselves, or hold themselves to the entire standard of scripture. You see the way the world is going and it makes sense for you to wonder if you failed somewhere along the way. Or maybe you blame us, the younger generation, for forsaking truth.
But I implore you to remember that “the way things are going” is the normal, expected thingaccording to Christ’s own words. It is what was predicted by every New Testament author. Nobody has failed! For a brief moment in history, everything lined up perfectly to make it appearas though we didn’t need to worry about those warnings of scripture.
It is important to ask yourself what percentage of people truly followed scripture to the best of their abilities, even in the best of times? What percentage of people truly allowed the Word to transform them into the image of the Son? Might I suggest that, far from a greater percentage of the population being true, genuine Christians from 1850-1950, it was just easier to fake faithfulness? Because persecution from the world was largely absent, so many maintained merely the “appearance of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5).
We are headed, not into the great unknown, but the opposite. The world is returning to normal. This means that yes, the morals of society will degrade. Fewer people will care about Truth. More people will live in open rebellion to God. But there is an upside to this. We are told over and over that we are to be different than the world (John 15:18-25, 1 Peter 4:1-6, Ephesians 5:7-17). When the morals of society deviate so drastically from scripture, our righteous example will stand out in stark contrast. People will clearly be able to see a difference between the life of the Christian and the non-Christian. Jesus says we will be “the light of the world” (Mat. 5:14); our light will shine ever brighter because the darkness seems so great! It will be harder to be a fake, pretend Christian; only the devoted will remain.
So, while it may seem that things are getting worse, spiritually, we need not fret. Under these conditions, the Church can and will thrive, as it has ever flourished under persecution. The number of people in our assemblies might decrease, but the devotion of those present will increase in kind; only those who have “counted the cost” (Luke 14:25-33) will show up! It will be harder, yes, but as we were forewarned: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).