“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” [Jesus speaking of the end times, Matthew 24]
I have often wondered why the Lord led me to study the rise of nazism and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, apartheid and Nelson Mandela, colonialism in India and Mahatma Gandhi, institutional slavery and Frederick Douglass, racism and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. But as I examine what is clearly happening in our day, I understand that if we do not remember the past we are doomed to be constantly repeating it. And here we are again, neck-deep in the ongoing dehumanization of our Black, Hispanic, and Asian brothers and sisters.
Let’s examine our repetitive world history: a select few with a thirst for power begin a campaign of misinformation and lies to gain a base within the public trust. Sometimes these are outsiders, but more often they come from within and are simply taking advantage of the brokenness of the community to gain some advantage.
The opportunists identify societal fissures and use public forums to widen the rifts with inflamed rhetoric aimed at stirring up the masses. Often they will seek out useful institutions such as churches, schools, businesses, and the arts to create a rapport using insider language and promises, securing an illusion of trust and co-operation in order to obtain power and influence with a cloak of respectability.
These elitists identify members of their society to set up as scapegoats to further their goals. They declare these insiders “outsiders” and begin a campaign of lies and misinformation in order to create a common enemy for the masses to focus upon, thus diverting public scrutiny from their own actions. They actively work to disenfranchise, demonize, and dehumanize these “outsiders” so that the masses feel superior and free to neglect, abuse, enslave, imprison, and even kill the “outsiders” without regret, believing that they are doing society a favor since the “outsiders” are the bane of their community, the cause of all of their problems.
At the tipping point of their increasing power and influence, the new leaders freely disregard respected individuals and institutions, actively working to discredit, remove, take-over, outlaw, or destroy any that threaten their authority. Nearly always this happens in relation to the free press as this type of control desires to dictate the message in public forums above all else: to have the ability to define what is “true”. As they continue to foment hatred and lies to their own end, they actively make, break, and remake laws in order to consolidate their power and legally entrench themselves: endowing themselves with the authority and power to control societal institutions such as the courts, the legislature, the military, the police, and the rule of law until they have obtained near-absolute control.
I say “near-absolute” because this type of power, control, hatred, lies, and domination are completely against the will of God. Therefore, whenever persons rage for control and the accumulation of power at the expense of others, God stirs up the hearts of individuals with vision and courage to stand up, push back, speak the truth, and champion the downtrodden. Those in power quickly label these champions “outsiders” for their defiance and proceed to discredit, abuse, and kill them. Sometimes their names are written into history, like those noted above, but God uses the echo of their voices to awaken and enliven the hearts of many throughout the generations, inspiring others to join them in the great work of bending the course of society back toward truth and love.
Authoritarians go to great lengths to defeat these uprisings through targeting, discrimination, intimidation, banning, and systemic imprisonment, torture, and death. When enough individuals band together against the regime the result is usually war; but often enough, as momentum grows over years or decades, and the truth breaks through to the masses who have co-operated actively or silently with the domineering powers, there comes a change in public opinion that results in the overthrow and restructuring of the society. Regrettably, it is never completely successful, thus the continuation of the cycle.
When we reach the final chapter in this book of the earth, we will have lived out this cycle of lies and truth, hatred and love, domination and freedom countless times to the demise of millions because we are a short-sighted, inherently selfish, fallen people. The good news is that God loves us anyway and sent His Son to live and die and live again to break the cycle of sin and death within us until the final victory is achieved on the last day when all the forces of hell are vanquished with a word from the Word of God: Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, God is constantly calling those who will listen to stand up to the forces of oppression and speak the truth in love, always love, because love never fails. Truth (Jesus is The Truth) and love (God is Love) are our most powerful weapons of faith, freeing individuals, and whole nations from oppression.
Our weapons may not look like much against the ugly powers of control, hate, guns, and lies, but they are of ultimate power because they are born of God: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” [Ephesians 6:10-17]
So what will we do? Will we be the aggressors or will we stand up to them? Will we spread hateful lies or speak the truth in love? Will we abuse others or intervene for the outcasts? Where will we stand?
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” [Jesus to His disciples, John 15:12-14]
Friends, stand up.