For years I have heard the Religious Right bemoan (and have myself been found bemoaning) the culture around us, and I now see Evangelicals expectantly wondering if God will bring revival to this corrupted world through the current pandemic. While I can resonate with the sorrow over the world's sin and a desire to see souls come to God for the first time, I have begun to wonder why we Christians seem to lack brokenness for our own sins, and why we focus so little on the conformation of our own souls to the Divine. We seem to think that we have arrived at holiness, or at least commendable acceptability, and that others really don't need to be like God so long as they become more like us. But that's not what I want. I want the God to whom people come to be a god not mis-fashioned in our own image. I want the God they come to to be transcendent.
In order for the world to see the Divine through us, we must struggle to get the logs out of our own eyes before asking others to take the specks out of theirs. For how could we lead others to a God whom we ourselves can't even see? And how could we expect others to want to come to a Holy God - not to have their beings transformed - but rather only to have their pet sins changed to become those of the church? For if their sins become our sins, they can then be overlooked. In the church's eyes, the gay, the aborter, and the atheist must change, but the greedy, gluttonous, unmerciful, prayerless Christian - the functional atheists - must not, since, of course, the latter looks like me. Oh how we have logs in our eyes!
But praise God for his mercy and grace, for in this, the Son and the Spirit are our perfect hope. The Spirit, the stonemason, takes our heart of stone and chisels it to become a heart of flesh. Jesus the carpenter, in turn, removes the logs from our eyes and fashions them into a yoke which is easy to bear. Together they lead us into the arms of a loving Father and King, to whom we do not merely profess some empty faith, but to whom we bow our knees as the outworking of true faith. Without such a transformation - without putting our subordination where we claim lordship lies - we smother our light, trample our salt, and build our house on sand.
As we Christians think about revival out there (which we should), I think the prophets would ask us to first consider our own repentance and need for reformation, both as individual Christians and as a collective body. I know that I fail to seek mercy and justice. I fail to walk humbly with God. My "sacrifices" don't cost me anything. I seek the praises of others. I contribute to systems and actions which oppress the weak. I murder with my hatred. My heart, more than any other heart, is in need of revival. Let me acknowledge my sin in the presence of God before seeking and expecting revival elsewhere. And perhaps it is acknowledging my sin and allowing God to transform my life - genuinely submitting to his lordship - that he will bring about revival in others. Maybe God calls us to judge ourselves and those inside the church rather than those outside. Maybe the loudest voice for God isn't the condemning one, but the one whispered in seemingly relative obscurity through a distinctive life of holiness and incarnational love, embracing the sinners and calling out the hypocrisy of the religious. Maybe the Christian is the one who stoops to write in the miniscule pebbles of sand rather than being the first to throw stones. Maybe, just maybe, a revival comes through following Jesus and becoming more like him - not just saying it.
In that vein, I want to invite any Christian reading this to look over Isaiah 58, one of my favorite prophetic calls to repentance and justice. And after you read that, you will find the ways God has been calling me to repent. My prayer is that this will spur you on to examine your own life, and that as the body of Christ, we can be broken open as a sweet smelling aroma to the world around us.