This was written right after the 1st Obama election while the “Christian right” was completely freaking out. It seems relevant today. Let me know what you think.
Jeremiah, often called “the Weeping Prophet,” perhaps did ok in picking his parents, but he picked a horrible time-frame in which to work! Here are some short descriptions of this prophet.*
1. He was at once gentle and tenacious, affectionate and inflexible.
It’s a lot easier to be tenacious than to be both tenacious and gentle. It’s a lot easier to be inflexible than to be both inflexible and affectionate.
2. The natural aspirations of youth were to the youthful prophet denied.
That surely includes the very appropriate longing to be successful in one’s ministry, to have the labor of one’s heart and mind bring positive results among the people one loves. He didn’t get to see that happen, but he labored long years in his calling anyway.
3. He insisted on repentance from a people who were incapable of contrition.
Maybe, today, that’s America’s so-called conservative Christians.
The nation as a whole shows some commitment to change (i. e. “repentance”)
- from, for example, dishonest unjust war and great violence committed against people who had done us no unusual harm,
- from, for example, financial greed, corruption, waste, and injustice,
- from, for example, a politics of fear-mongering and fraud,
among much else.
- They feel ignored, complaining that Americans are not interested in a religious perspective on public life;
- some of them are buying up guns;
- many of them are terrified of the bloodshed and chaos they believe Obama will unleash;
- and they are forwarding wildly slanderous, fantasizing, fear-mongering emails about who the AntiChrist “might” be.
Why, why, why do they think and behave like that?
I suppose it’s largely because that’s the kind of thing they are hearing from their chosen “prophets”. That’s serious. They CHOOSE to listen to
- blatant well-known liars,
- people who are paid multiplied millions to lie to them,
- people whose slanderous, vile, even violent talk makes clear their complete lack of healthy morality, Christian or otherwise.
It’s good that they feel ignored; thinking like that richly deserves to be ignored. But if we are asking for repentance from these “Evangelicals”, we are apparently not going to see much of it.
If, on the other hand, we are hoping for repentance from the nation as a whole, there is clearly some interest in that. Maybe not enough. No doubt most of us who voted for Obama don’t realize how dangerous our situation is and how judgment-worthy our behavior has been, nor for how long.
But there IS a pervasive sense that we’ve been on the wrong track, that the rest of the world is right about that, and that some very important things need changing. That is much more reason for hope than Jeremiah ever got. That, as far as it goes, is repentance, and as such is a very good thing. May it continue!
4. He unmasked the nation’s sins and broadcast its judgment knowing that it would end in futility.
How painful it must be to be so lovingly and faithfully involved in what you know is a dead-end ministry! We need to honor Jeremiah for his faithfulness under such circumstances. And if we feel our situation is similar, we need to imitate his loving and faithful truthfulness.
5. Those whom he loved hated him.
A common experience for loving truth-tellers. But some actually see some measure of real success, unlike Jeremiah.
6. A loyal patriot, he was branded a traitor.
Another common occurrence down through the millenia, one that has happened a lot in recent American history.
7. This prophet of undying hope had to exhibit the fallacy of his people’s hope.
Well, there’s “hope” and there’s “hope”. Let’s go for the realistc, long-term hope that has true moral-spiritual grounds.
8. This priestly intercessor was commanded to intercede no more.
That must be really weird and unpleasant.
9. This lover of Judah was by Judah maligned.
Sort of like Jesus. Sort of like so many recently who love America and have been publicly slandered as “America-haters.”
How many men and women in recent American history have some or all of these characteristics?
As an example I think often of Jim Wallis of Sojourners who for decades was pretty much isolated, worrying and writing and working without much apparent effect. And now he is widely recognized and approved for his work, and is seeing real fruit. So he is, finally, a lot better off than Jeremiah – at least for now.
The Value of the Bible
Maybe Dallas Willard is another one a little like Jeremiah – saying what needs saying and not having the broad effect he deserves to have. About using the Bible, he wrote this 20 years ago:
How do such Bible stories help?
by those prepared to be honest with their experience,
the Bible incisively lays bare the depths and obscurities of the human heart.
That is why it continues to play the decisive role it does in human history and culture and why it is fitted to be the perpetual instrument of the Spirit of God for human transformation …
We really can learn a lot from Scripture –
- but NOT if we allow politically motivated false prophets to tell us which parts of it to notice,
- NOR if we submit to their misuse of even those limited portions.
Jeremiah sets us a worthy example. Whether we are justified in having a little more hope than he did perhaps remains to be seen.There IS a pervasive sense that we're on the wrong track, that the rest of the world is right about that, that very important things need changing. That's more reason for hope than Jeremiah ever got.Click To Tweet
*[The list is from Tyndale’s 3 Vol Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1980.]
**[The Willard quote is from The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, HarperCollins, 1988, p68.]