Hawthorn Presbyterian Church

When the “Water Level” Drops

[first published in the monthly congregational Notes for September, 2019.]

Anyone who has used the gate between the Church and hall over the years will know that in dry periods it does not close or open properly. Local knowledge then comes into play and with a bit (sometimes a lot) of downward force on the gate everything lines up and the latch works as it should. So the lock itself is not at fault. Has the gate has been bent somehow or its locking frame come loose? A quick inspection shows nothing wrong there; the issue is more fundamental. Large as they are, the buildings themselves move relative to one another, and by up to 3mm! It is this movement that causes the mis-alignment. And all this is because of water—or rather, lack of it.

As its moisture content reduces, the soil shrinks so both buildings drop but one drops more than the other and the misalignment occurs. As moisture returns to its normal level, the soil expands, the buildings rise and everything lines up again. All this is out of sight and if it were not for the gate no-one would ever really know of it—unless, or until one day the moisture level drops so much that one of the buildings (or both) cannot not cope with the strain and cracks. To some this simply shows the amazing power of water, but as I pondered this I wondered if there was a lesson here. Could a falling “water level” in our cultural foundations explain our present social troubles?

It is unarguable that many things in our society simply do not operate the way they once did. Things seem out of alignment. Older markers of right and wrong no longer match social mores. Respect for God is falling away and with that a general acknowledgement of the value of the 10 Commandments as a solid social foundation. Crimes (especially nasty ones) seem on the up and morality is definitely on the way down. New freedoms mean that “anything goes” but for how long, as everything seems to be falling apart? Family structures are increasingly dysfunctional and basic distinctions between the sexes are being deliberately erased. Any protest is quickly cut off as “-phobic.” Trust and good-will are increasingly rare as self-governance degenerates into licence, so that more and more things are only held together by pressure, the “force” of laws, penalties and fear. As evidence, one only needs to consider the huge amounts of money governments spend on security cameras, facial recognition technology and other social monitoring schemes. This is simply an attempt to keep things working through “force”. But history shows that in the long run a society held together only by force will crack apart.

So, will the “water-level” in our social foundations one day rise to bring everything back into alignment again without this need of force? And what could that “water-level” be? In Rom 1:18-32, God warns that when He ceases to be acknowledged, He withdraws His gracious influence and leaves sinners to their own devices. Verse 28 is blunt: ”Since they did not like to retain God in their thinking, God gave them over to a debased mind…” Decline is inevitable, and the consequences are listed in vv 29-32.

On the other hand, when a culture turns (or returns) and submits to Christ, it is lifted up. The Holy Spirit comes as promised in Is 44:3 and as He indwells more and more individuals, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, (Gal 5:22-23) the whole community benefits. The “water-level” rises! Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could say that Australia was a land where the extended description of the Christian life given in Eph 4:17-6:20 applied? (Read it and refresh your mind!!) Well, let it be the description of the life you live! Don’t let the “water level” drop! If it has, let it be filled up again. Walk closely to Christ, embrace His sanctifying work, and delight in the work of the Holy Spirit, and you will find that your life will be a blessing.

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