I was hiking over the weekend when I came upon a lizard lying in the middle of the path. I had seen many lizards in this area over the years, darting across the fields and under brush, but I had never seen one out in the open. It looked to be completely healthy, and yet it was lying completely still. I pushed at it gently with my walking stick, but it didn’t move. Only when I turned it over did I become convinced that it was dead. It seemed that nothing on the outside had injured it; clearly it died from internal causes I could not see.
Going further down the path, my attention was drawn to the lake I was hiking around. It is presently 13 feet below normal, and continues to recede. There is nothing wrong with the lake itself–it is not leaking water or losing volume due to increased flow through the dam. The problem is with the sources I cannot see. As drought in this part of Texas persists, the rivers and tributaries that feed this lake are affected and the lake level falls as a result.
Still further down the path, I came upon a cedar tree that had died. The bottom section of the trunk was still vertical, but the rest of the trunk and branches were lying on the ground. The other trees around it seemed healthy and strong. I could not think of an external force that would kill this tree while leaving the others strong. So I determined that it had died from internal causes I could not see.
While the lizard, lake, and cedar tree were being affected by internal forces, they appeared healthy to us. But they were dying from within. Are these natural phenomena a parable for our culture today? Are we dying from within?
Think of the moral changes that have occurred in just the last 10 years. Same-sex marriage is now legal in more states than ever; many observers expect the Supreme Court eventually to legalize such marriages everywhere. Recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state, while medicinal marijuana is legal in 20 states. Internet pornography is a plague that grows more every year; 40 percent of pastors now say they struggle with this problem.
A few days ago I was flipping through television channels searching for a Dallas Mavericks basketball game and came upon a show called “The Americans.” It’s about Russian spies in the 1970s living in America. I was shocked at the nudity shown on this prime-time show, and quickly changed the channel. We do not subscribe to HBO or Showtime because we don’t want nudity on our televisions. Now it seems that no channels are safe.
External appearance is no guarantee of internal health. Our nation needs moral renewal more than ever before. But that renewal must begin with Christians: “If my people, called by my name” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Today I’m asking myself, Am I as close to God on the inside as others may think I am on the outside? Are you?