This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
so that justice has become perverted. (NLT)
We may sympathise with this prophet bearing his odd name. So much injustice and conflict around the place. How sad to be living in such a world. But before we get too carried away with such complaining, we need to get it into our heads that Habakkuk is talking about what is happening among the people of God, not in the big bad world beyond.
Those who follow Jesus rightly lament the state of the wider world, but like this prophet, we do well to lament the state of the people of God. It is not as if there is no good being done, or no genuine attempts to follow Jesus. It is just that our witness is seriously compromised by our own imperfections.
When men of God abuse children, what does that say about Jesus welcoming such little ones? When churches bicker and fight about who has a better handle on truth, what does that say about God’s desire we live at peace with one another? When individuals use churches as the means to achieve power and resort to bullying behaviour, what does that say about servant like love for one another?
Jesus himself warned that the wider world would be best pointed to him by his people truly loving one another. Unless we get our common life in order, what hope have we got of urging others to get their lives in order.
This does not mean we aim at an impossible perfection. It does mean we live and speak with humility as those who need the grace of God as much as any others. Let’s be cleaning up our own act even as we persuade the rest of the world to do likewise.