What is going on? This is the sentiment I’ve heard from many friends and family, especially as they survey this increasingly crazy election season. I have to admit that I’ve been more than a bit distressed myself lately. How is it, for instance, that a vulgar, reality-show icon who has built his empire by exploiting the poor, who openly mocks the disabled, who defends the abortion industrial complex, who threatens his opponents, who brags of his adultery, who says that he has “no need of forgiveness”–how is this guy winning among evangelicals in places like South Carolina? How is it that the worst kind of leaders continue to win and those who have accomplished records, who lead with dignity, who genuinely serve the common good don’t seem to win office? If you love your neighbor, you can’t help but be discouraged by the state of our world. Or perhaps you are not troubled by this election season, but by war, terrorism, economic concerns, relational issues, crime, cancer or some other concern has you wondering just what is going wrong in the world.
I’m a naturally optimistic guy, but last Sunday I walked into church feeling less than optimistic. But it was worshipping with my brothers and sisters in Christ that helped move me from despair to faith. Specifically it was the third verse of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”, a hymn that I’ve sung in church since I was a child:
Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace forevermore,
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
I’ve attended church my whole life and have always found comfort in gathering with God’s people to worship Christ as Lord. But the older I get, as the trials of life and the troubles of the world press in on me more, as I see with fresh eyes the deep brokeness and the anguish of a world beset by the curse of sin, I’m comforted, every week, by simply going to church.
I’m comforted because when we go to church we are doing more than simply gathering with like-minded people around a set of shared values. What we are doing when we gather together is declaring truth to the world and to ourselves, that Christ–not the temporary powers of this world, not the movements, the media, the message-men–is sovereign over all things. We worship the One who was raised from the dead and raises us from the dead. We are refreshed again, with the eschatological hope that His kingdom is coming soon and that Christ is our only hope to renew and restore all things.
“The Church’s One Foundation” is a song of victory. Christ is building His church and is gathering His people from every nation, tribe and tongue. This He promised and this He will do. The church will endure, even amongst outside pressure and inside sin. Dangerous and destructive leaders can hurt God’s people and can be destructive to human flourishing, but they can’t put Christ back in the grave, they can’t keep Christ from building His church, and they won’t stop Christ from gathering history to Himself. It is this truth, not returns on Super Tuesday, that give us our hope.
This is why the word from the writer of Hebrews is so prescient today:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
Troubling times should drive us to worship, to gather with God’s people on Sundays and be reminded and refreshed of the grand gospel story. Church, for true believers, is not just a temporary emotional salve, but a reminder of the reality of who we are and where we are going.
I’ve found this reality to be true my whole life, but even more so as I’ve gotten older: We should work to build good communities, we should shape what happens in the public square, because we love our neighbors and we care about human flourishing, but what happens on Sundays is the most important thing in the world.