RECENT government rhetoric has been unnerving for many in the church. The church was told quite plainly that they will be "on the wrong side of history" unless they "get with the programme." Naturally this raises two questions for the church, and ourselves as we face the year ahead, where is history going? And who sets the agenda?
It often feels that those with power set the agenda and when they speak with a prophetic forthrightness one can begin to believe that these people really are in control and can see where humanity is heading.
So as a Christian it is interesting to listen to where Jesus believes history is heading and what he thinks the programme is? We discover this in the book of James in the New Testament, chapter 5:1-11.
James writes, "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days."
So much for being in awe of the powerful. God's assessment of earthly power is that it will come to nothing. Jesus' return trivialises the power of mankind. The glory and pomp of humanity will be exposed. It reminds me of that chilling scene in Great Expectations – where we enter the house of Miss Haversham, only to see the corrosion of great wealth. Well says James, see the powerful from the perspective of the end. Seeking riches now and not being rich towards God through submission and faith in Jesus Christ is to fail to understand the times, that we are in the last days between the ascension and return of Jesus Christ. His return will determine who is on the wrong side of history.
James is not trying to scare us into faith, he knows that does not work. Instead he is just trying to give us a sense of the awful reality with language straight from the lips of Jesus. To be on the wrong side of history is to be on the wrong side of Jesus Christ, because the one that ends history is the one that controls history. Jesus will have the last word, therefore Jesus sets the agenda.
But what's his agenda? James answers, "Follow the example of the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered."
The old testament prophets are the example to follow, they show us what patient steadfast faith looks like. This is the picture of true Christian living. The prophets clung to faith in Jesus' judgement even though many reviled and persecuted them.
Are you on the wrong side of history? Have you got with the programme?