As you may remember, California—and much of the West Coast—endured a severe heatwave and many wildfires in 2018.
One of those fires broke out along the banks of the Colorado River. From the Arizona side, a couple videoed a “firenado”—a whirlwind created by tremendous updrafts during a forest fire. A literal tornado of flames swept down the valley wall toward the Colorado. But when it reached the waters of the Colorado, the whirlwind changed its tune. It quickly turned into a waterspout. Now it had the potential to threaten people on the river with water rather than fire.
Changing Political Climates
You know, over the span of thirty-one years in the military I’ve seen the political climate change. When such changes occur, many leaders change right along with them. Yes, the military can be sometimes be a surprisingly political environment. Instead of waxing eloquent on long-held convictions, some leaders will bluster away on whatever current policy dictates—as though they invented the policy themselves. If policy changes under pressure from our culture, they change right along with it. Only their fervency remains consistent.
This, of course, is not peculiar to the military. Politicians are renowned for adopting any cause that can advance their career, whether they actually care about that cause or not. Some of the biggest champions of women’s rights during the 70s, 80s, and 90s were also some of the worst womanizers in their private lives. In the same way, a number of advocates for civil rights over the last fifty years were former Klansmen. I suppose one could say that it’s great that they’ve “seen the light” and changed their ways. But I strongly suspect those same people would abandon any worthy cause if it no longer served their own selfish purpose.
Christian Thermometer or Thermostat
Yes, even some preachers are guilty of doing the same. If I miss what’s on CNN or some other promulgator of popular culture, then I can catch it from these pastors. Such preachers do not proclaim a message from the heart of God. They merely reflect what’s popular in society. They’re like the whirlwind. If they’re in the midst of fire, they spew fire. If surrounded by water, they spray water. They would serve a far better purpose by doing the opposite. If surrounded by flames, why not spray water where it’s needed most?
God has not called preachers to merely reflect our society, but to challenge society to be more like Christ. Neither has God called the church to be a mere thermometer—simply reflecting the climate of their world. God has called the church to be a thermostat—to set the climate.
But we can only affect our society for good—and for God—if we spend time with God in prayer, in His word, and in the company of godly people. If all we do is absorb the godless world around us—through a steady diet of entertainment, then we’ll do nothing but mirror that world. In order to spread light in the midst of darkness, we need to absorb the light which only God can give. In order to sow love in a world of hatred, we need to draw such love from God’s Holy Spirit. And in order to proclaim truth where falsehood abounds, we need to feast upon it from the Scripture. Only from an intimate relationship with God can we effectively pray the prayer which the church has uttered over many centuries.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.