Marcus Tullius Cicero growled these famous words to the Roman senate in the first century BC to decry the deterioration of civilized society. “Oh, the times!” he lamented. “Oh, the standards!”
Today, over two thousand years later, the world is still going to hell in a handbasket.
Cicero had good reason to beat his breast about the times and the standards. He was living in the final decades of the Roman Republic, as it descended into civil war and dictatorship. In due time, Cicero himself was hunted down and executed during the power struggles that consolidated Julius Caesar’s position as dictator of the Roman Empire.
Are we living today in the modern equivalent of the fall of the Roman Republic? Are we headed for societal breakdown and destruction as the doomsayers shout in our ears via newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet?
Or are we in the end times predicted in the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Book of Revelation? Is Jesus Christ about to return to the earth Rambo-style to annihilate all the unbelievers and set up an eternal kingdom for the Elect on a brand new Earth version 2.0?
The evidence is all around us. There are wars and insurgencies everywhere. Everyday political corruption is exposed in one place or another, and disgraced politicians scuttle off to exile, prison, or death. Traditional marriage is breaking down. The divorce rate is soaring. And what’s the matter with kids today?
For anyone watching, it seems to be clear that not only are we in for difficult times ahead, but that our politics are ugly and getting uglier from all sides. We must stand out by not allowing the toxicity of our cultural and political climate to rub off on us but we need to rub off on it. And while, certainly, Christians can and should participate in the political process and vote our conscience, may we be careful not to betray our values and beliefs in the name of advancing them.
Christians should be careful to remember Jonah, who was so caught up in demonizing the other side and filled with anger at the people of Nineveh that he ran from carrying out his mission to proclaim God’s message of compassion and warning of judgment. Christians, Jesus said, should be known for their genuine love for each other and for those outside the faith. We must not lose sight of our mission given by Jesus Christ, which is not to gain political power or influence at all costs but rather to proclaim the life-changing power of the Gospel of Christ in the hope it will change hearts and minds, and ultimately, the world. Jesus does not say in Matthew 24 that He will return for the Church once it sufficiently proclaimed political and ideological talking points, or once enough elections have been won. Jesus said He will return once the Gospel has been shared with everyone.
The world is watching.
“Do all things without complaining or arguing, that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” Philippians 2:14-15
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law, he meditates day and night.” Psalms 1:1-3
The author of Taking a Stand in Our Dying Land is Pastor Stephen Mitchell. He is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Maryland