Monday, April 21, 2014

Good Friday, Tax Collectors and Sinners

It’s Good Friday, though I probably won’t post this until next week.

I’m out walking through my neighbourhood around noon. It was noisier this morning than yesterday at this time; more people around home instead of at work. By lunchtime the local Starbucks is buzzing, other establishments are opening up for business. Even the used bookstore is open.

I remember only a few years ago when, on Good Friday, everything was quiet well into the afternoon. Most offices and storefronts still took the opportunity to close and give their employees a day off since business wasn’t likely to be exactly booming. You could drive anywhere downtown at any time of day and almost nobody else was out and about.

Worse, I remember all the way back to my childhood, when Easter was conferences or special church meetings for the Protestants I knew, mass for the Catholics and peace and quiet for everybody else. Nobody went shopping on Good Friday because there was nowhere open to shop.

It’s good to see that the de-Christian-ization of our country continues apace.

No, really.

I’m happy to see that the lines are becoming less and less indistinct.
It’s been a long time since I heard anyone refer to Canada or the U.S. as “Christian” countries. And of course, they were never Christian in any sense that really mattered. They did, however, benefit from the application, intentionally or otherwise, of biblical principles to some aspects of the broader culture.  

Don’t get me wrong, it was pleasant and easy to grow up in a culture that, if not exactly keen to embrace Christ himself, at least paid lip service to some aspects of the Ten Commandments as being reasonably good ethical practice. That used the word “Christmas” instead of “Xmas” or “holidays”. That had us all recite the Lord’s Prayer with the national anthem before school each day. Where our neighbours, for the most part, appeared to be clean-living folks. Where Protestant churches of all denominations gave at least the outward appearance of financial health, rather than renting out parts of their disintegrating buildings to anyone who would give them a few bucks to offset creeping expenses. Where, once married, there was a reasonable chance you would stay that way, and where children had a reasonable chance, once conceived, of being born.

But it was largely a matter of appearances. It made things more pleasant and diminished our sense of Christian urgency. It wasn’t changing lives or hearts. It wasn’t getting anyone into heaven. It was enjoyable window dressing.

The problems that are out in the open today were all festering under the surface, where they couldn’t as easily be seen and dealt with.

The Pharisees once confronted Jesus’ disciples about the fact that their master ate with people they referred to as “tax collectors and sinners”. Jesus responded to them directly:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”.
In saying this, I don’t think the Lord was suggesting for a moment that he came only to call those who were obvious sinners. Nor was he suggesting that the Pharisees were righteous. The fact that he said to them “Go and learn …” is plenty of evidence on that front.

But he was, I think, indicating that you don’t look for a doctor unless you realize you’re sick.

Our society and most of its citizens are grievously spiritually unwell, heading for a very bad end.

It might not be the worst thing in the world if that were more evident.

No comments :

Post a Comment