“O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” (Luke 9: 41)
If you have been fortunate enough to have done some international travel, you will probably have experienced a bit of culture shock when moving between different cultural norms. Attitudes to considerations such as punctuality, work ethic, loyalty, hospitality, debt and much more can vary between nations, and can be quite difficult to adjust to while we are away from home. But while the tinsel of “civilized behaviour” can be draped across – or pulled off – any number of different practices depending on where they are performed, the common strands of acceptability are still enough to enable, say, an American Indian, an English nobleman, and an Maori tribesman to recognise and accept each other as members of the Human family. Moving between them might be a bit awkward at times, but the obstacles aren’t insurmountable. However there are two societies where the gulf between the cultures is so enormous that the consequence is all-out war, and that is the culture of Heaven and the culture of the world.
Jesus said: “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23). He refers a few times to “this generation,” notably in Matthew 24:34, when He is talking about the events of the last days: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” The word used in Greek is just ‘what it says on the tin’ – a line of descent from common ancestry. There are differing interpretations of the text, but I think that the “generation” that Jesus refers to is, quite simply, the generation of Adam that is born of the flesh. It is the generation that will finally pass away when He ”makes all things new.” Until then, there are two generations in the world: the generation of the first Adam, born from below; and the generation of the second Adam, born (again) from above, born of the Spirit, alive in Christ. Faith is from Above. It can only be received and exercised in the Spirit, which is why the generation of the first Adam is faithless. The Greek word diastrepho, translated as “perverse,” means diverted from the right path and specifically opposing the saving plan and purposes of God. The flesh has been perverse since the first Adam perverted it in the garden of Eden.
God said “Let there be…” and there was. The universe was created by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), and that word became flesh in the Incarnation. The Son of Man Himself is the perfect and complete expression of faith. The faith by which Love of God brings creation and its redemption into existence is the very atmosphere of Heaven. Jesus left that atmosphere behind to dwell among us, in a culture that was totally and fundamentally in opposition to everything that He was. When we consider the lowly conditions of the Lord’s birth we traditionally see a great disparity between the surroundings that one would expect for the baby King of Kings and the environment of the stable. But the distance between these two extremes is just a pinprick when compared with the great gulf that exists between the world “below” and the world “above.” It wouldn’t be surprising if there were times when all He wanted was to go back home.
What about us? We are born from Above; we are no longer “of the world” any more than He is (John 17:16). In Christ, we have “places to walk” among those who stand in the courts of Heaven, (Zech 3:7) where we are also seated. (Eph 2:6) As descendants of the second Adam, we are also “conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29) and therefore restored to the image of God as we were originally created. Spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned, yet we so often fall into the snare of trying to understand our spiritual heritage through the clouded eyes of the flesh, and grapple with the impossibility of trying to reconcile our self-image as creatures of this earth (below) with the idea of our inheritance in Heavenly places (above). But as I wrote in my last article (we shall be like Him), not only will we be like Him when He returns, but we already are like Him in the Spirit.
As I have quoted in that article, John writes: “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2). The apostle goes on to say this, in verse three: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3). I strongly believe that Jesus is calling His bride today to purify herself. Do we settle for the norms of the “faithless and perverse generation” that we live among? Or are we straining our spiritual lungs to breathe in the pure atmosphere of faith, in which the Word of God can bring about the purposes of Heaven? Do we seek the Kingdom of God above all else? Are our lives an incarnation of Love? Do we hunger for the bread of Heaven? Do we thirst for the living water of the Holy Spirit and cry out with the sons of Korah:
“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
I wonder how many times Jesus prayed these verses Himself when He was alone on the mountain with His Father.
We are no longer of “this generation” because we have been born from Above, but we dwell among those who are, with the King’s work to do, for as long as the King wants to keep us on Earth. So as long as we remain here, let’s remember who we are and where we come from; because until we leave this tent for our permanent residence we too are away in a manger.