About the year 1945, two clean-cut young men met one another for the first time in the dormitory room they would share together during their first year of college. Robert watched with curiosity as Howard emptied the contents of his duffle bag onto his bed. It contained two sets of cotton sheets, a wool Army blanket, a few pairs of socks and underwear, dungarees and flannel shirts, and a single navy blue suit, white shirt, and tie for wearing to church on Sunday.
It only took Howard a few moments to put his clothes neatly away. Then he carefully made his bed and sat upon it, flipping idly through the pages of his Bible as he watched Robert open the lid of his large leather-covered trunk, revealing its amazing contents: several pairs of custom made dress shoes in their pockets on the underside of the lid; a tray full of toiletries, brushes, combs, suspenders, silk ties and matching handkerchiefs; and under the tray, many finely tailored suits for every mood and season, each with its matching shirt and socks.
Howard could not disguise his astonishment as Robert hung suit after suit on hangers in his closet. Robert cast him a condescending grin and said confidently, "You have to dress for success! How can you ever expect to get anywhere in this world if you don't dress, think, and act as if you had already arrived?"
Fifty years later Howard died, a poor insignificant preacher, having spent his life raising a large family and trying to convict or inspire the lukewarm laity in church after insignificant church. Robert, on the other hand, went on to become a famous and influential multi-media minister, preaching his gospel of comfort and prosperity to thousands of rich or would-be-rich patrons in his palatial California church and to millions of telechurchgoers, ushering Christianity into the 21st century.
It is a tragic irony that over 150 million adult Americans, who together form over 86% of the most consumptive society the world has ever known, claim as their "Lord and Savior" the One who said, "None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."1 In the beginning all of His followers shared a simple common life of love and unity. Any who wanted to join them gave up their personal wealth, trusting their leaders to distribute it wisely so that there would be no needy among them.2
This was the first truly sustainable life, for its leaders believed and taught that "godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."3 Not only was it sustainable in its material simplicity, but also in its social relationships, because they were forgiven, washed clean of their former lives of self-indulgence and had received the ability to live for each other, to forgive one another, and to overlook each other's faults.4 This way of living was intended to grow into a nation and produce a great light to show the world what a truly sustainable life is. As its love, light, and unity increased it would overflow to the whole world and bring salvation to the ends of the earth. However, by the end of the first century, this life was already waning, mutating into the stale, ritualistic system known as Christianity.
The largely Christian society of the Western world bears no resemblance to the life of those first-century believers. Instead it is a society driven by self-concern, with an insatiable appetite for greater comfort, wealth, prestige, and pleasure, but with the least possible effort or accountability. The apostle Paul, in the first century, predicted that this behavior would fill the church in the last days of this present age:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.5 (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Paul even quoted the prophet Isaiah as saying that "unless the Lord of Hosts had preserved a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah." 6 He could not have imagined how prophetic and true these words would prove to be as we enter the third millennium. The prophet Isaiah had described the nation of Israel in his day as being like Sodom and Gomorrah.7 What did he mean? According to the prophet Ezekiel,8 the guilt of Sodom was the proud flaunting of a life of abundant food and careless ease in callous disregard of the poor and needy. Their self-indulgence extended into their sexual practices, which were abominable to their Creator. Their judgment fit their crimes: that society of consumption was consumed by fire.9
As was Sodom and Gomorrah in those days, so goes Western civilization today. Christianity as its predominant religion steadily accommodates the relentless surge of consumption and moral decadence, even as she accommodates the religious diversity of the age. Over the next several decades, through accommodation and compromise, she will evolve into a one-world religion with great social, economic, and political strength. Ultimately she will fit her description in the book of Revelation, and receive her just judgment:
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! ... the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality ... To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning ... in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more. (Revelation 18:2-11)
So it is that the whole world is becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, just as the apostle Paul described. But he also spoke of a preserved seed, using a word that means "the grain or kernel that contains within itself the germ of the future plant." Even as the world is being carried along by a spirit of consumption that is destroying the very earth that sustains its life, a new social order is springing forth from that preserved seed. It is the same simple, common life of love and unity that existed almost 2000 years ago,10 because it resulted from the same message -- the Gospel of the Kingdom11 that calls men and women to be saved from this perverse generation that is rushing pell-mell to its own destruction, and to be a part of a new life that bears witness to the love of God.
Christians and heathens alike are being carried along in the torrent of self-indulgence and consumption that is destroying the earth. Whatever part you play in Earth Day, whatever environmental causes you support, whatever emotions you feel when you think about the plight of the earth, the truth is that you cannot escape being a part of the problem as long as you identify with, make your living in, and participate in this society of consumption.
But you can be part of the solution. Incredible as it may seem, the solution is the radical life of love and unity that is growing into a spiritual nation of Twelve Tribes in twelve different regions on the earth. It is the life that Yahshua the Messiah, the Son of God, came to establish. When this living demonstration of the love of our Creator is fully formed, it will usher in the end of this age of greed and war, the return of Messiah, and the beginning of a thousand-year age of peace when love will rule the earth.