THE MOST WICKED GENERATION?
by James Gibson
It may be time to re-think some conventional Christian wisdom concerning the depravity of the present day
These words from our Lord were pronounced upon the people of the most wicked generation that has ever arisen in human history, namely, the very people alive at the time of his earthly ministry. It was a generation, a society and a mindset incarnated by the city over which Jesus lamented, and in which he would face and conquer death.
Jerusalem was not a city overrun by moral decadence. In fact, it was the moral virtue of the Jewish religious elite that stood as the biggest obstacle to their accepting Jesusí Messiahship.
Yet Jesus made it very clear that "this generation," that is, the people living in Jerusalem at that time, would be held responsible for all the sins of their forebears.
Jesusí pronouncements are what amount to an indictment against that most wicked generation. Final judgment would come forty years later, when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans and the very center of Jewish religious life, the Temple, was destroyed, just as Jesus had predicted.
Christian observers of contemporary society devote a considerable amount of time bemoaning the utter moral depravity so prevalent in our culture. Indeed, for those living in the present day, it is hard to imagine there could ever have been a time when evil had more intensely manifested itself in a society. Yet, for all the pronouncements and warnings of apocalyptic doom, the wrath of God appears, at least for now, to have been withheld.
We must, therefore, ask why God would see fit to inflict upon a generation long past a judgment so violent as to involve the overthrow not only a city, but also of the entire religious system centered around that city and its Temple, yet withhold such a judgment from the present generation which seems, from our perspective, to be far more morally depraved and corrupt than was first century Jerusalem. Is Godís judgment so arbitrary that he executes it at random whenever he feels like it, regardless of the moral state of the culture at any given time?
The answer to the above question is a most resounding no! Godís judgment is anything but arbitrary and random. When he comes in judgment, he comes according to a meticulous timetable ordained for the very purpose of allowing a people ample opportunity to either repent or come to the full measure of its sin. First century Jerusalem, in accordance with Jesusí indictment, was held responsible for the full measure of Israelís sins, which had been building up over numerous preceding generations. But the final straw, the act which called down the wrath of God upon that generation, was a crime so vile and wicked that no generation before had ever dared commit it.
The people of first century Jerusalem must be considered the most wicked generation in human history for this one damning fact: Actually, literally and physically, they murdered God!
Succeeding generations have developed dubious philosophies claiming "God is dead." Carnal-minded men and women who live as though there is no God have spanned the centuries. Persistent sin is, in a certain spiritual sense, the equivalent of crucifying Christ all over again. But the actual, literal, physical murder of God is an act of supreme wickedness that can never again be duplicated.
The great irony of this act of wickedness is that God in Christ has turned what would have been his defeat into the ultimate, decisive victory!
Since Christ has triumphed over death, succeeding generations are forever restrained from acting upon humanityís most banal passion: the desire to rid itself of God.
The sobering lesson to be learned here is that, for all our concern over the moral decline of the culture in the present generation, if we are not focused, first and foremost, on fallen humanityís desperate need for the God it thinks it can do without, we are missing the boat entirely. Jesus lamented for Jerusalem not because its streets were overrun with murderous violence; not because its newsstands were flooded with pornography; not because its culture condoned sexual deviancy. Jesus lamented for Jerusalem because its people, whom God had chosen for himself, had rejected Godís messengers and were about to reject God himself. Every other sin, no matter how vile, pales in comparison.
It may be time to re-think some conventional Christian wisdom concerning the depravity of the present day. The intense manifestation of evil which is apparent to all but the most feeble-minded, may not be the portent of doom we have so often presumed it to be. It may very well be nothing more than the frustrated contortions of a shackled generation divinely restricted from realizing its ultimate goal. Perhaps we should see the prevalence of such blatant and obvious wickedness not as possible evidence that Satan is winning, but as decisive evidence that God has won.
The challenge for the Church, then is to put aside the all-too-common practice of lamenting our societyís slide to moral oblivion, and put forward the liberating message of hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will transform an individual, a community, a society and, yes, even a generation.
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