It's been an interesting six weeks for me. For the first time since loosing Kay to cancer, I've been attending church regularly and this has brought the beginning of fresh friendships and lots of interesting conversations on a range of issues. It's also been interesting to see, over the same period, that my engagement with the world in general, particularly over social electronic forums has picked up, and I've actually found myself writing, researching and thinking more of late than in quite some time. All of this has been causing me to look again at the present turmoil of the world and really ask how such evil thrives and decimates - what causes such wickedness to become so prevalent and pervasive?
Whilst we can certainly point to the propensity in the human condition to the flawed and the crooked because of the nature of the corruption of our hearts, there does seem to be a particularly dark edge to current events. There certainly appear to be some parallels in the time of the Prophet Ezekiel.
The culture of Israel had become riddled with arrogant pride in her immoral spiritual and business relations with her neighbors, and God brings a stark analysis of her real condition and its consequences (Ezekiel chapter 16). What struck me here, however, was what resided at the heart of such rebellion.
Ezekiel raises the judgement of Sodom (verse 49), describing the condition of that city as it met its end. His analysis is telling.
We would, perhaps, focus on Sodom's sexually immoral lifestyle, but the root problems are stark and chillingly familiar -
Pride, excess of material goods, an abundance of idleness, negligence and indifference to the needs of others, arrogance which made allowance for wickedness as socially acceptable.
In Romans 1, Paul talks about how it is when people exchange the truth about themselves and God for the lie of self-sufficiency in regards to how we define ourselves that we then see the emergence of a culture that is riddled with these forms of cruelty - cruelty to ourselves, because it numbs us to our true condition and then cruelty toward others, as what is deemed to be acceptable is derived from a selfish notion of reality.
This downward spiral leads to deeper and deeper severance from what truly makes us whole; a squandering of God's rich gifts until we are left, empty and alone, in a cruel world so often of our own making.
The end would be dark indeed, but the same God who spoke through Ezekiel and the Prophets still speaks to our day and tells us, wonderfully, that there is mercy in our time of need. The future of the world is not in the hands of such darkness. Christ has come to reconcile all things to God so that we can employ and use the bounty He has made well, with thanksgiving and delight, caring for each other through the love He sheds abroad in our hearts - the love which made and redeems creation.