5/13/2014 1:00:00 PM
One of the most indelible moments of my ministry came in 1999, when I was permitted to record editions of my television program, "Breakthrough," from the site of the mass murder at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Social scientists made a cottage industry of analyzing and proclaiming what happened at Columbine, variously laying the blame on the availability of guns, bullying and even the violence depicted in video games of the era. They all got it wrong. The Columbine massacre had at its roots a worldview called nihilism, which denies all existence and rejects any and all standards of moral or religious behavior.
Nihilism is the worldview of "whatever" taken to a horrifying extreme. It rejects the notion of hope – a condition that the Church of Jesus Christ should be expert in sharing, but often fails miserably to communicate.
Nihilism holds that this world is all there is. Therefore, as the "logic" follows, there is no reason to hold any standard for behavior. Drugs, illicit sex and violence are just things to do like any other behavior, because nothing matters.
The masterminds of the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, may have planned the attack for two years or more. Certainly, during that time, they embraced a mindset that nothing, including them, mattered. Certainly one of the lessons of April 20, 1999, is this: worldviews have consequences. But there is only one worldview grounded in truth. And I have to believe there were Bible-believing churches in Littleton, Colorado, and the surrounding area that were equipped to share the hope of heaven with Harris and Klebold and their families and, tragically, did not.
Certainly the Columbine massacre stands as a dramatic reminder of the failure of an aberrant worldview, and the necessity of the hope of Jesus Christ for a hurting world. But there are other reminders. Sixteen years ago this month, one of the most popular television shows in the history of the medium, "Seinfeld," aired its last original episode. It hasn't stopped airing in reruns since then. The show's creators reportedly were guided by the directive "no growing, no learning," and that was certainly reflected in the behavior of the four narcissists at the show's center. "Seinfeld" is little more than nihilism with a smile, and today's popular shows are no better. It's little wonder weak-willed Christians and their churches seem reluctant to stand out.
There's a price to be paid for exalting a biblical worldview in the public square. The latest to bear the burden of proclaiming the truth in this lost culture are David and Jason Benham. They're the twins who were shooting episodes of a home-improvement show, "Flip It Forward," on the HGTV cable network before an anti-Christian group called Right Wing Watch published an "expose" revealing that – shudder! – the Benhams were Christians. One ginned-up wave of outrage and one group of cowardly network executives later, the Benhams were dropped from HGTV's schedule (though it appears the program may be picked up by another network).
Clearly large segments of our culture are not in the market for hope or anyone who proclaims it. That doesn't change the fact that the Church's charge is to proclaim the hope that is manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. As I wrote in my book Culturally Incorrect
, God exists and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. That means He can be known! And when we know Him – when we claim the sacrificial death of His son, Jesus, as the penalty for our sins – we have a hope for a glorious life beyond this one. Hope should be the Church's stock in trade, as it used to be. A classic hymn of the faith reminds us:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
- lyrics by Thomas Chisholm (emphasis added)
It seems to me that too many churches have an unhealthy, unbiblical attitude about the hope we have in Jesus. Some are afraid public condemnation if they share it (which Jesus promised), while others hoard it like a secret club handshake. Our charge is to freely share it and welcome into our fellowship those who choose to receive it.
Our hope is in heaven, and we'd do well to remember that as we engage a culture that seems utterly allergic to hope.
- May 13, 2014