The ‘rubble world’ and the Church

A girl plays near rubble of damaged buildings in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo countryside, Syria December 25, 2016.
A girl plays near rubble of damaged buildings in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo countryside, Syria December 25, 2016. | (Photo: REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi)

They called it the “rubble world.” 

Allied forces that walked down the once-elegant boulevards of European cities demolished by hurricanes of bombs during the Second World War were stunned at the devastation. All that was left of once-stately sections of London, vast swaths of Dresden, almost the whole of Berlin, were mountains of brick, twisted steel, broken girders, choking dust and ragged empty-eyed people.

Rubble … rubble everywhere.

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And so now: when we look at the spiritual, moral, institutional, and intellectual rubble of our once-favored civilization after decades of culture carpet-bombing by forces intent on destroying a society built on the Judeo-Christian worldview, we see rubble everywhere — in households, churches, schools, media, court rooms, legislative chambers, and even in the very agencies that should be guided by high principles for the protection and well-being of society.

And that’s only part of the institutional and personal devastation.

The wreckage includes our young people who have been targeted by the bombers sweeping over their culture. There are the mountains of grief and hopelessness for those who have been so wounded in the culture shaped by Apollyon the destroyer and those who have rejected the Christ and become the representatives of the powers of darkness in this present world.

In the midst of all this there are those who rightly warn the Church about the minefields in this rubble world. Some now are stressing that the Church must not be politicized, but in an age when issues are so starkly centered on spiritual, ethical, moral, and worldview issues, and when one set of candidates stands against anti-biblical policies while another set promotes them and the churches are silent or risk being judged as “too-political” … how can that be enough?

I agree with those who urge us not to be suckered institutionally into godless political worldviews on the right as well as the left, but to simply urge us not to be political leaves us hiding in bomb shelters that once were churches daring to take stands on issues that are destroying us. Yet I also concur that we should not be retriever dogs for candidates who want to run as Christians but whose public speech and actions are often unchristian. If, for example, Donald Trump wants the vote of Christians he should clean up his public speech and behaviors that are not conformed to the character of the Kingdom of God.

In this hour, the rubble world desperately needs the real, living, dynamic, sound and steady church. We must know who we are amid all this or the warnings of those who are concerned we will be a religious form of a particular party will be realized.

The real Church is the bride of Christ, living in intimacy with Him midst an adulterous culture. The authentic church is the body of Christ, the organic entity through Whom He walks and ministers in the world today.

The New Testament Church that is Jesus-centered-Spirit energized, Word anchored, Kingdom-envisioning, and servant-hearted is the remnant community.

She should not go to bed with candidates and parties. She must not forget “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who preach good news” and keep her “feet” clean (Isaiah 52:7).

In this hour when the rubble world needs the authentic Church so much, and we are seeking to understand what role we should play in this hellish landscape, it is good to review St. Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that we are “ambassadors for Christ.”

That is, the authentic Church today is the “outpost” of the Kingdom … the embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven in the rubble world.

An incident on September 22, 1939, shows what that looks like. Poland’s ambassador was summoned to meet with Soviet envoy Andre Vishinski to receive an order regarding the future of Poland.

Vishinski handed the Polish ambassador a note. First, the Polish leader wanted to know what was in it.

“It is a proclamation of the Soviet government that, in view of recent events that the Republic of Poland has ceased to exist.” Three weeks earlier Hitler’s armies, then allied with the Soviet Union, had blitzed into Poland. Russia had stood by like a vulture, ready to pick clean the Polish corpse.

But the Polish ambassador knew his country, and fired back. “Poland will never cease to exist!” the ambassador said, as he refused to take the note.

In the political blitzes of our chaos-heaving age, the real Church must know who she is as the remnant people of Christ. The Polish ambassador knew whom he represented — the leaders and people of free Poland.

So, the Church now must know Whom she represents — Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

As the remnant community the Church is a nation within nations. Her citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20). That should make her a better citizen of her earthly abode, but not an institutional lapdog to hop at every command of the candidates and officials. Like the Polish ambassador she must have the conviction to say “No” when candidates and parties want to tell her what to do or make her a formal partisan of their causes and campaigns.

Further, since we are “ambassadors for Christ” the New Testament Church is the “embassy” of Christ’s Kingdom in the fallen world. Among other things, an ambassador speaks as the voice of the kingdom of which he or she is the representative.

The greatest mission of the remnant Church is to speak into this world, not some rhetorical masterpiece we have contrived, but what the Master has given us in the Bible.

So, yes, let us not be a mere extension of a particular political party and its candidates, but neither should we withdraw from the political process.

The rubble world needs the “beautiful feet” on its hills of trash and devastation.

So don’t sell out and don’t pull out.

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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