The end of Judges. This last bit is just more demonstration of how chaotic and depraved the situation was, really. The whole book is difficult.
Like, I find it odd that the language used in each account implies that a judge is raised up to lead the nation and Israel has rest for so many years before falling back into depravity. Except within the stories its a handful of tribes involved. Sometimes it’s because the others were ‘busy’ or something, but except for this one at the end it all seems pretty fragmented. That’s really just the beginning of a thought, and I’m not sure where it goes.
The other response I have is calling to mind every time I heard someone bemoaning the moral downfall of modern culture. That’s sort of the nature of human history. Some people somewhere manage to pull it together and build a faithful community for a little while, and then a generation or two later there’s widespread moral decay. Out of the debauchery rises a reformation, and the whole things starts again. This is hardly the worst the world has ever been.
Hear me out. I’m not saying it’s all fine, stop whining. I’m saying it’s inevitable and you can only be responsible for yourself and your household. I’m saying I doubt the sincerity of the majority during the ‘good years.’ I’m saying Jesus’ ministry was different than the prophets carrying dire warnings of impending doom. I’m saying a lot of things, and none of them are that we should give up on saving the world and just accept it.
I’m saying that we can’t follow rules very well. I’m saying we don’t respond well to power or restriction. I’m saying we corrupt everything we touch. It’s what we do.
The way out of the cycle isn’t more rules. The way out of the cycle isn’t more judgment. The only way out of the cycle is Christ. And Christ taught compassion. Christ taught meeting people where they are and addressing their felt needs. Christ taught love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Don’t judge your neighbor. Don’t threaten your neighbor. Why does it need to be said? DON’T HATE YOUR NEIGHBOR! Don’t be disgusted by your neighbor. Don’t make assumptions about your neighbor. Love them.
If you want to make a difference in your culture, in your community, love it. Make sure the people around you feel loved. I know it’s hard, but trust the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit. It is her authority to convict and correct, not yours.
Raise your children to love. Raise your children to study. The message of Christ is one of love, mercy, grace, and victory. Not one of fear and trembling.
The fear of God is awe. To borrow allegory from C. S. Lewis, Aslan is not a tame lion. There is felt fear over the consequences of angering God, sure, but there is awe, wonder, sheer and literal overwhelm at the very nature of his being. That is the fear of God, recognizing that he is so far above and beyond us that we could never hope to comprehend.
So raise your children to seek God because he is love, because he is wonderful, because he is our creator, not because we fear hell, but because paradise is open to us. That is transformative power. You want to break the cycle of falling away? Introduce your children and neighbors to Christ, guide them into a genuine relationship with their creator. Don’t hand them a set of rules and chide them every time they forget one. Let them ask questions, and seek answers with them. Teach them the Bible is a love letter with one message that all the parts are woven within: Christ is our redemption.
The rest is in the hands of Spirit.