The Diminished Center

     Our society is seriously out of balance. Western culture had for years a rational center in terms of philosophy, culture and ethics. It was not perfect but there was a foundation present in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, and related cultures. That foundation was centered on the right of individual freedom, respect for the sacredness of human life, and the belief that truth is real and objective. People looked for the place God would have them reside. We have lost that center.

     This loss of center is not new. History records times when man has come undone. Noah faced such a time. Isaiah preached against the rejection of the Biblical center. He wrote this: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness: who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21). Jesus Himself presented the principle of living at the true center when He said “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free: (John 8:32). We are to be centered in God’s truth.

     I am suggesting that these passages describe being centered in a place spiritually which is precisely where God would have us stand. This state of balance in the center is not a compromise between good and evil: It is instead the place over the fulcrum of life that allows us to exist in the right and good relationship with God. There is no greater danger for mankind than a center that does not hold.

     William Butler Yeats wrote his poem “The Second Coming” in the aftermath of the First World War. It begins: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction while the worst all full of passionate intensity.” Yeats was agitated by the state of man around the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries and the decline of western culture. As bad as things were then if the great poet lived now his distress would be multiplied.

     We live at a dangerous and unbalanced time, a time in which the center is not holding. Balance is rapidly diminishing. It is tragic that our culture justifies killing unborn children in the name of women’s rights. It is equally tragic that we rightly bemoan hateful terrorism but justify crimes and self-destruction among the poor. It is also tragic that our political system moves so fervently to adopt collectivism, a system that rejects the exceptional in favor of shared mediocrity. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is the dissolution of the one institution that serves as the center and fulcrum of life, the family as God would have it be. The idea of a man and woman spending life together (as per Genesis 2:24) is the object of derision in many supposed leading circles in our culture.

The underlying and foundational problem is the rejection of the concept of objective righteousness. The poet said the “falcon cannot hear the falconer.” For us the noise of selfishness and me-ism keeps us from hearing directions from God in His Word. We can hear His words if we would but we must choose to do so.

     At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used the powerful illustration of two men building houses. The foolish man built upon the sand; the wise man built on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27). We had better understand that we live among those who are rapidly building the flimsiest of houses on the sad sand of instability. The rains of stress and challenge will come and then those spiritual houses will wash away.

     History makes its circuit. It will not stop until the Lord returns. At that point it will be too late to do anything about anything. But now we can make sure that we have the center of our lives in the good safe place where it will hold. That place, that fulcrum, that Center is Christ (Galatians 2:20). Do not allow your center to fade: be transformed, not conformed (Romans 12:1-2).