Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Do We Do When the Barbarians Win?

It was a hard time for the Roman Empire. The Huns had come in like a whirlwind off the central Asian steppe, pushing before them various Germanic tribes into the Empire. This resulted in the western Empire falling, with ensuing chaos. It was also a hard time for the Christian church. The Germanic tribes that ended up in charge of what was left of the government were either pagans or followers of a belief that denied Jesus was really God. To make things more desperate, much of the Christianity existing at the time was a cultural Christianity with no real conviction. How would this situation turn out?

God sometimes seems to have a sense of the dramatic. He will produce a real cliff-hanger and then work in some surprising way to turn things around. This time He took a British youth and had him taken captive as a slave into Ireland (then a pagan country). There, God became real to him and led him out of his slavery. Then God sent him back to the people who had enslaved him, to tell them God's truth. This man, later known as Patrick, went--and the Irish listened. The Irish then sent people to preach Christ to the Scots and the Picts and to stir up the lagging dedication of Christians on the continent.

Meanwhile, in Rome, God caused a man named Gregory to decide he needed to go to the Anglo-Saxons (the pagan Germanic tribes then in the process of conquering Britain) and tell them about Christ. This was not to be. Instead Gregory was made pope and sent a delegation of others to teach the Anglo-Saxons. These converted the Anglo-Saxons, who in turn sent missionaries to Germany to preach Christ there.

Gregory was also instrumental in convincing the Lombards (who then ruled the majority of Italy) to come to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed God. God even used Clovis, king of the Franks, a man whose life was not notable for Christian virtue, to bring the area that is now France around to a general affirmation of orthodox Christianity. In the long run, all of Europe came back around to at least a nominal affirmation of Christianity (with many parts probably more seriously Christian than they were before the invasion).

We Christians in the United States many times feel we are standing on the brink of being overwhelmed philosophically and politically, and, if we do not do something immediately, all will be lost. I do not want to discourage meaningful efforts to turn the situation around, but I do want to put things in perspective. God is still in control of the world, and, if we are overwhelmed like the Romans were overwhelmed, God will in His own way and His own time bring things back around. Therefore, we should trust God--that He is in charge and His purposes will be accomplished. Even if the barbarians win.

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