Just before the day all of these great and awesome things happen, I’ll send Elijah to tell you the truth. He’ll show parents how to do right by their kids, and kids to do right by their parents. That way your community won’t be totally wiped out.
Understanding between one generation and the next is essential for any society to continue to exist more than a few years. And yet, tension and misunderstanding between generations is nearly always the state of things when a new generation comes of age.
“Kids these days!” is something every generation exclaims about the next at some point, while “My parents just don’t get it,” is probably as often said by each generation of the one before.
The pain around these struggles to understand and to be understood is particularly acute, ironically enough, because (in spite of appearances to the contrary) members of both generations know the existence of the community depends on finding common ground, on “parents doing right by their kids, and kids doing right by their parents.”
One can easily see Malachi sitting on either side of this great divide. Is he the old prophet looking on as “kids these days” seem to be taking society in a new direction he doesn’t approve of (all these new-fangled ideas about marriage)? Or is he the young firebrand prophet looking at the mistakes of the older generation he and his peers feel they need to fix (they’ve compromised away the real meaning of life behind empty ritual)?
In either case, Malachi has the wisdom to see that it will take both sides of the generational divide doing right by each other, and the one who can tell the truth to every generation and have them listen and understand is a rare gift from God.
“Mind you, the day is coming, red hot, to incinerate the arrogant bastards like so much garbage,” God says. “Nothing will be left of them, not one scrap.”
“But for those who stay true, it’ll be like the dawning of justice, and it will heal you. You’ll be free from the cells where the wicked tied you, and you’ll walk on their ashen graves,” God says. “Just remember what my main man Moses taught you. At the place of destruction, I gave him instructions to pass along to you.”
This is Malachi’s “cosmic karma” plan. Everyone will get what’s coming to them. The bad will be wiped out. The good will be rewarded. God will suddenly restore the balance of justice.
In Malachi’s own day, it expressed the hope that the wrongs he saw all around him would be put right, and it had both an individual and a communal dimension. Individuals were responsible for the corruption of the national character, and the vision of the flames consuming them applied individually. But it also applied on a societal level. Nations that continued in corruption, aggression, and hubris would be wiped out, those that (like the purified Israel Malachi lobbied for) purified themselves before God came to do it for them would prosper.
Alas (or perhaps fortunately) the “great and terrible day” of God’s swift burning justice has yet to come. Or perhaps it comes in part every day. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it sweeps toward justice.”
The question is not whether the “day of the Lord” is imminent. It’s not meant to be marked in red numbers on a calendar. For those who care about justice, it is every day.
The question is, on any given day, and especially today: which side of the long arc of justice are you on?
When you said, “Following God is useless. There’s no use following God’s instructions. Being a God-person is such a downer. People who have attitude are much happier. And besides, you can do anything you want where God is concerned and get away with it.”
But those who really did follow God stuck together, and God noticed, and God heard them, and God remembered them. In fact, God wrote their names down, so that on day of reckoning they would be claimed as God’s very own.
“As parents hold tight to their own children, I’ll hold tight to my own,” says God. “And then everyone will be able to tell between the good and the bad.”
Sometimes you can get away with a lot of crap for a long time. But don’t get too smug about it. Crap is unsustainable. Eventually, it hits the fan.
On the other hand, if you do good work, if you’re solid, that’s going to show, too. Eventually. But like anything worthwhile, it takes time and effort.
No doubt, it’s hard to keep at it, to stick to what’s important, when everyone else seems to be having such a grand time living the life of Riley. Even worse, when you’re being made fun of for following your calling. That’s when you have to remind yourself of what you’re working toward. That’s when you have to find folks who are following the same path, and stick together.
“So you think you can rob God? You think I’m fooled so easily? ‘We’d never do such a thing!’ you say. And yet your charitable contributions and your gifts are empty. Damn the whole lot of you for robbing me. Bring something really worthwhile to my house. If you’re going to bring a gift of food, at least make it something edible. Go ahead, try it! See if I won’t rain down blessing on you. I’ll turn away the locust swarm, so your harvest will be rich. I’ll make sure your vines won’t wilt,” God says.
“Then everyone will say how lucky you are because of how wonderful your land is,” says God.
There’s something to be said for the old saying that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing right.
Especially if you’re doing something for someone. You can’t expect much appreciation for something done with a grudge, or done only half way.
If what you’re offering to someone as a gift isn’t really the best you have to offer, don’t expect them to treasure it.
Most people can see right through a gift insincerely given. Most people can tell when you’re just phoning it in, when your heart’s not really in your work, when you’re putting in time but not putting in the passion. And if most people can tell, any God worth talking about can tell, too.
When you’re putting your passion into your work, and when you’re doing your work as a real offering of love to the world – whatever that work is, whatever service you offer – that’s when things start to move. That’s when people start to come together around your mission. That’s when putting in the effort starts to pay off.
Not to mention, that’s when you will find that in spite of it’s being the hardest work you’ll ever do, it’s the work that will bring you the most happiness.