Pam, who attends Good Shepherd, sent me an email after I preached this morning. She highlighted Ephesians 4:22, that we are “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Here’s the context. My sermon was on Genesis 6 where God judged the world for its corruption—with the sole exception of Noah who walked with God and was righteous. I mentioned at the outset that as I prepared for the sermon during the week I was attuned to the language of corruption, and I kept hearing it all through the week. Here are a few items that stood out.
First came the post-mortems of the collapsed regime in Tunisia, a government that was regularly labeled as “autocratic and corrupt” by the commentators. That led, in turn, to the uprisings in Egypt. Once again the news sources often spoke of how “autocratic and corrupt” that government had become. Tens of thousands streamed into the streets to protest against their leaders; and with the protestors came looters—another form of corruption.
And then came a report closer to home: the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission offered its report during the week on the conduct of major US investment banks, financial leaders, and government agencies during the huge mortgage crisis—a crisis that is still having such a damaging impact on many, including some dear friends of mine! Once again some of the commentators used the language of “corrupt practices and policies” in summarizing what went wrong.
In another tragic case an American missionary couple, Sam and Nancy Davis, were confronted by an illegal road block in a drug-cartel controlled region of Mexico. He tried to run it but shooting erupted. She was hit in the head and died from the wound as he raced desperately to get her back to medical care in the States. It’s easy, of course, to blame the corruption of the drug dealers; but they represent just one side of the corruption. A broad network of drug consumers is the other side, a network made up mainly of Americans.
So there was plenty of corruption and violence to illustrate my sermon point: that the problem of Noah’s era is alive and well today. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously” (Genesis 6:5), and again, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (6:11-12).
This was all weighty content and I felt it as I preached. I was also aware at the same time of a friend who worked for decades at a local Christian college. In the course of his work he ran into some managerial dishonesty. When he confronted the problem and tried to deal with it biblically it came back in his face. I don’t know many of the particulars but I do know the man well: he walks with God and lives a life that is as righteous as any I know. And he’s now unemployed. So even we Christians have issues to face. Very serious issues.
How, then, shall we live in this age that is all too close to what Noah faced? By walking with God as Noah did. If we live apart from him—away from what he loves and affirms—we become corrupt. Pam’s helpful verse from Ephesians hits a crucial point: corruption can only be overcome as we discard old desires and embrace Christ’s righteous and holy ways. The likeness of Christ is then borne out in the lives of those who know and love him in truth, and not just in words.
I need help here. I don’t even trust my own heart which is remarkably well-equipped in self-deception. But as we gather together in the washing of the water of the Word, and ask the Holy Spirit to search and to fill our hearts, I have hope. Let’s start to make a difference by hanging together to stir each other to love and good deeds in a badly broken world. It’s a dangerous time and we need to start getting serious about it.