“What is happening to the world today?” Have you ever heard or thought these words? How easily we forget the mistakes of the past. Human atrocities like slavery, genocide, human trafficking, and terrorist attacks barely skim the surface of what human beings have done to each other over the past century. But it’s important for us to have perspective. These events were not the first, and if we’re not careful they won’t be the last.
We have an amnesic recall of the past when we think of the “good ole days”. When we think of the world today we focus heavily on the negative, but when we think of the past we tend to focus on the highlights. This makes us long for a “simpler” time. But the world hasn’t changed, only our recollection. Early writings, dating back to at least 1410 B.C., document accounts of slavery, prostitution, genocide, child sacrifice, and varied sexual perversions. Even more incredulously, many of these were considered forms of worship to pagan gods. So much for the “good ole days”. While we may have grown in technology, human nature has remained largely unchanged.
Many people argue that human beings are inherently good. On what basis is this opinion formed? As children we all begin life pure, like blank slates. It’s our choices and experiences that writes on our slate. We begin life as a neutral canvas, but we are easily seduced by evil. Even when I try my hardest to follow Jesus’ example, my slate still becomes dirty. Preserving my own self-interest is in my nature, it’s in all our natures. This type of selfishness is so ingrained that we easily become blind to it’s existence. We may even disguise it as our personal freedom. The pursuit of certain “freedoms” can start us down a very dangerous path.
Have you ever noticed the common pattern that had accompanied the rise and fall of great empires? Alexander Tytler, Scottish professor from the University of Edinburgh, is credited with describing eight stages repeated by every great civilization.
“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:
“From bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to apathy;
from apathy to dependence;
from dependency back again into bondage.”
In the Bible we see these stages playing out among the Israelites. After being slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, they unite under God who liberates them. After their 40 years of wandering they finally take possession of the promised land, experiencing prosperity. The generation who had experienced both the hardship and prosperity faithfully followed God. Yet, the next generation, who had grown up in prosperity, quickly fell away. Forgetting what God had done for them, they began craving their freedom. They envied the religion of the pagan nations whose worship allowed the gratification their darkest and innermost desires. They wanted freedom from the laws of the God who had saved them.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.Judges 21:25
They began following the examples of the surrounding pagan nations enjoying their prosperity and personal freedoms. In their complacency, their nation weakened and made them easy prey for enemy invaders. Weakened, no longer unified or following God, they were easily conquered. At these times they cried out to God for forgiveness, pleading to be saved. God in his mercy would rescue them. After being saved they did follow God… at least until the next time. This cycle occurred 6 times just within the 325 year period of judges, and many more before the fall of Jerusalem and their Babylonian captivity.
Why don’t we remember these patterns and choose to make different choices? I guess it’s because we want what we want, and we hope that we will be the exception. Unfortunately, from the looks of it we may be closing in on the end of our cycle. But it doesn’t have to be. Just like with the Israelites, God longs to rescue us. We are at a critical time in history where we can 1) choose to unite and call to God to save us, or 2) follow our path of selfishness and apathy until we end our cycle. We may not feel like we can change our nation, but we each have the ability to impact those around us. The rest we leave to God.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”Matthew 19:26
My next section will address this concept applied to individuals: Why do I keep making the same mistakes?