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The State of the Church

Church of God Perspective content, attribution required

Is there anything in common with the State of the Union address and the State of the Church?

President Barak Obama promised a “different” sort of State of the Union, and he kept that promise. Delivered in a manner more reminiscent of a pep rally than a State of the Union address, Obama stressed that our military is strong, our economy is strong and the Affordable Care Act is making healthcare strong. Perhaps more surprisingly, it was followed up with the usual Opposition Response, but it too was more reminiscent of a pep rally than the usual sort of response.

On the one hand, I am amazed that anyone would support the likes of Donald Trump for President. On the other hand, many are becoming more and more disenfranchised with the major political parties, and neither side can really promise anything but more of the same. Both speeches really do show just how far out of touch Washington is with the majority of Americans.

Life Hope & Truth posted a follow-up to the SOTU speech in article “The Real State of the Union: A Warning for America“. If you want a more realistic look at the state of the nation, I suggest you give it a read. However, I want to focus on something else.

What is the state of God’s Church today? If God were to give His assessment of the Church overall, would it resemble a pep rally or would it more resemble a dressing down?

Background of SOTU

The State of the Union (SOTU) address was important enough for the founding fathers to put it in the Constitution of the United States of America.

[The President] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

— Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

A number of things should immediately strike you, if you are not familiar with Article II, as being as much about tradition as about the law. While not explicitly stated, the assumption has always been that this should be an annual report. In the past, it was often posted as a letter to Congress. With the changing technology of radio and television, it became more about the President making an appearance and speaking to the nation as a whole rather than just Congress.

Once a Year

Christians are commanded to take stock once per year as well.

27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

~ 1Co 11:27-29

The NT Passover is one where Jesus commanded His disciples to partake of unleavened bread and wine in a ceremony that observes His death, the reason why He died, and our own part we played in it. It occurs once a year on the anniversary of His arrest and death.

However, how foolish would it be for the President and Congress to only take stock of the nation once a year? In this fast paced dangerous world, how would we ever react to ever-growing threats if we stuck our heads in the sand for the rest of the year?

Likewise, it is quite foolish to only take spiritual stock only once a year. Once a year is the prescribed minimum, but that does not mean we should be foolish and ignore it the rest of the year.

Given by the Leader

While the US is a democracy, everyone naturally looks to the President for leadership in most matters. It is normally the President who goes to Congress to ask for a declaration of war. It is normally the President who tries to set the legislative agenda for Congress, or at least his or her party.

That does not mean that Congress has no power. In reality, since Congress passes the laws, the President’s speech should be more about how those laws were carried out and the need for new laws as circumstances change than anything else. Unfortunately, it has become more like another continuation of the ongoing campaigning than anything useful.

Still, the President is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the “leader of the free world”. In that respect, the President’s speech becomes that much more important and should not be wasted on slogans and pep rallies.

Who is the leader of the Church? Does He give a speech or letter containing the state of the Church?

Obviously, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Col 1:18). It is His Church that He built (Mt 16:18). So, if He addressed His Church, what would He say?

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

~ Rev 1:18-19

In chapters 2 — 3 of the Book of Revelation, we see over and over again that Jesus dictated to John, “Unto the angel of the church of [certain location] write…”

We see many things positive in those letters, but we also read of many admonitions and even rebukes. More importantly, it is up to each of us to listen and heed!

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

Notice our Leader says everyone with an ear should listen to what He says to the churches, plural! If the President in the SOTU address says, “Ohio should beware of earthquakes,” and then he follows up with, “All Americans need to heed this,” then how foolish would it be for me to say, “Well, I can ignore that because I am in Colorado not in Ohio”?

Not only that, but even in the groups Jesus reprimands, He specifically points out individual ways that those stuck there can avoid the repercussions He pronounces.

In other words, each of us should examine ourselves, and not, as others have done, pin labels on others to excuse our own bad behavior. If all individuals in a group repent and change, then the entire group changes. If an individual in a group does not fit the mold of the overall group, then there are suitable warnings to each that might apply individually to various people at various times in various circumstances.

In spite of the fact that I have apparently been given a slightly different insight into what group fits various descriptions (but not in all cases), that is why it is not profitable to do so explicitly. Not only might I be wrong, and thus guilty of being a false accuser, but if that person or group cannot have the proper discernment to examine themselves, then they probably will not heed the warning in any event and have to learn the hard way.

God wants people who can govern themselves (with His help, which He will not force on anyone). If they are not willing to do that, then they will not make it. It really is that simple. You can argue about external structures, governments, bylaws, and other stupid things, but that won’t change your status before God.

Most of all, what if we really, really want to avoid His rebuke? I ask this not from the angle of wishing to get away with something, but rather from the viewpoint of what does it take to please our Savior?

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

~ 1Co 11:28-31

Clearly, the responsibility lies with each and every one of us. If we honestly examine ourselves, then God will not have to.

In like manner, if America suddenly woke up and repented, then God would not have to rebuke her. However, ancient Israel did not, and her descendants likely will not. That is why the history of Israel is written as an example and a warning to Christians everywhere.

 

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