I’m sure you know the tragic story of Joshua Harris: a respected Christian author, a pastor for 17 years, and a leading voice for sexual purity in the Christian community, who left his wife, left his faith, and left Jesus.
It was a shocking moment for many, especially those who had been impacted by his writing and preaching. It was shocking to me. It made me question some things: how do we know if someone is truly saved? If it’s true that “you shall know them by their fruits,” how do I know which fruits are fraudulent and which ones are genuine?
It seemed like such an odd detail. In a list praising Abraham for being willing to sacrifice his son, Moses for giving up a life of luxurious living, and Noah for building a boat and saving all of humanity, the statement about Jacob really stood out to me. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). I was preaching through Hebrews 11 when I first paid attention to that verse and was confused by the statement. What in the world did leaning on a staff have to do with faith?
Our day is a day of controversy. Our society is plagued with gender dysphoria, the loss of basic human rights, and the total misperception of personal identity. Many of these issues, along with countless others, would have been outrageous to suggest a few decades ago, and while the church largely stands united on many of these fronts, there is one issue that seems to stand out when one considers how many churches today draw up lines of disagreement, especially over the last few months. That issue deals with the role of women in ministry and consequently draws into question the historic mistreatment of women both within and without the church.
Eight years ago, I tried to watch Game of Thrones: Season 1. A few episodes in, I put the DVDs back in the case and returned them. I had seen enough. Besides being disturbed by the nihilistic violence and rape, I felt the story of Westeros wasn’t going anywhere meaningful, and I was right. Over the years I have followed the show in the news and observed people’s reaction to it. It’s hard to ignore a piece of culture that has sparked so many interesting conversations between believers and non-believers alike. As our culture collectively obsesses over the airing of the final season, it’s apparent to me the story still hasn’t gone anywhere and has nowhere satisfying to go. Unless the show’s creators pull a rabbit out of a hat, I sense that millions of GoT viewers will be left with an empty feeling in the pits of their stomachs after the final episode airs. They will find themselves yearning for a deeper meaning that will never come.
In case you missed it, HBO just broadcasted the eighth and final season of their show, “Game of Thrones,” which is based off George R.R. Martin’s books. This show (and the books) have now become a sort of cultural phenomenon. The show was the most expensive TV show produced in 2018 and promises to have even more money poured into it in 2019. And why not put that kind of money into it if you’re HBO? Clearly, you’re giving people what they want. An astounding 3.39 million people watched the first episode of season 8. That’s up 20% from the 2.83 million who watched the season 7 premiere, and an increase of 12% over the 3.03 million who tuned in for the season 7 finale.
But it says something about the state of our Christian culture that this show continues to rise in popularity.
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