I think we live in a very oppressive society.
You might disagree.
Wasn't this country founded on ideals that allow every citizen to enjoy "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" Doesn't this society hold among its highest ideals non-discrimination and individual freedom?
The reality is that many Americans are desperately unhappy, they are not free, and tragically, they are giving up on life entirely.
Americans are the most heavily medicated people on earth. Millions are on anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and psychiatric medications--even in the church.
More people are incarcerated in America than in any other nation on earth, including Russia and China. It has more than 25% of all the world's prisoners despite having less than 5% of the world's population.
The March 31st USA TODAY reported on a study done in run-down neighborhoods in large cities. "An emerging national network of public health and neuroscience researchers, community minded foundations and law enforcement officials, believe that the primary challenge facing high poverty areas is not one of the usual suspects; education, crime or jobs."
The biggest challenge, according to the study, "Is an epidemic of trauma passed along from generation to generation, from one neighborhood to another."
The trauma from broken homes, single households, alcohol and drug abuse, incest and sexual exploitation is comparable to the trauma experienced in war-torn countries, the study reveals.
The trauma inflicted on children is mind-boggling and absolutely heart-wrenching. This is not a time for judgment, but for mercy.
Another much publicized study shows that middle-aged white Americans are seeing a dramatic decline in life expectancy. The reason? People seem to have lost hope. Broken marriages, loss of the American dream, fragmented and isolated lives are causing millions to seek escape in drugs, alcohol and other abuses. Thousands are dying from overdoses and suicide.
American society is in deep trouble.
What has gone wrong?
The news articles I've read don't suggest the possibility that the despair and hopelessness in so many lives might be caused by spiritual emptiness.
Could it be that sexual "liberation" and the pursuit of material treasure and pleasure are leaving people hollow at the core--hungry for something more?
Could it be that the Gospel of self-fulfillment being peddled everywhere is snake oil psychology? Or worse, is it a toxic brew that does the opposite of what it promises---bringing enslavement and despair instead of fulfillment?
Modern society has brought us "The autonomous, freely choosing individual, finding meaning in no one but himself."
In a Supreme Court decision upholding abortion rights in 1992, Justice Kennedy said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life."
God is fast becoming irrelevant as people are taught to find ultimate meaning and fulfillment in themselves.
And this gospel of self-fulfillment is anything but good news.
It's time for a revolution, time to throw off the chains of this oppressive society. It's deliverance time.
We're talking about a spiritual revolution.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. We suit up with "the armor of God on the right hand and on the left." (2 Cor. 10:4, 2 Cor. 6:7)
Two thousand years ago, The Emperor of a New Society stood up and proclaimed this revolutionary message: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18)
Folks in His hometown of Nazareth were so incensed by His claims that they took the Emperor and tried to throw him down over a cliff. But He survived the attempt and went on to lead the greatest revolution this world has ever seen.
Jesus presents a dramatic counter-claim to the promises of modern society.
"Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life FOR MY SAKE will find it. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Luke 16:24-25.
The exclusivity and extent of Jesus claim is breathtaking. If we wish to find ourselves (self-realization) we must let go of ourselves and surrender to this Person.
To be sure, joining Jesus' revolution means abandoning everything in order to follow Him, just as did His first disciples.
But that is a small price to pay. For He heals our broken, disordered hearts with His abounding life. And the peace and joy is unspeakable.
He is THE ONE the oppressed, brokenhearted American people are looking for--the Great American Liberator.
If we take the time to unplug the media, and turn off the TV, we can find Him, if we seek Him.
He promised, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word and my Father will love him and WE WILL COME TO HIM AND MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM." (John 14:23)
There's nothing better. To have the quieting, restful, joy-giving presence of God is what our weary hearts need.
We've all been affected by the mad pace of this oppressive, soul-squeezing society.
If we step aside long enough to look for Him and open our hearts to Him, we will find the Great Psychologist; the Counselor we all need; the Friend who abides with us and comforts our lonely hearts.
He's been there all the time, even while counseling centers and drug treatments proliferate.
When we surrender to Him; when we live in His presence with our brother in obedience to His teachings, His Liberating Kingdom will break out among us and make us whole.
"The Sun of Righteousness (shall) arise with healing in His wings..." (Mal. 4:2)