Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Without a Future

Just outside of Thessaloniki, we are headed east towardsKavala and
Philippi. It is our first full day on a study tour
following the route
of the Apostle Paul. We will start at the port that was
once known as

Neapolis and work our way back, heading down to Berea and
Meteora, and
eventually to Delphi, Athens, Corinth, and end up in
Rome, where Paul
gave his life for the gospel.


Greece is a different country than the one I first
visited in the late
90’s. There is a sense of despair. One of the tell tale
signs is the
absence of cars on the road. Few can be found, as
gasoline has become
very expensive, and not so many have the resources to
drive much. The
other indicator is the graffiti that is on so many
buildings and on
nearly every road sign. It might be art (a few years ago
defended the right to use graffiti as artistic
expression). To me, it is
a defacing of property, a despoiling that seems to be
more a statement
of rage and anger. When I asked our Greek guide his hope
for the future,
he responded, “Hope? What hope?”

Like much of Europe, the nation is bankrupt. I was
reading the
International Herald Tribune on the flight from
Frankfurt, and I noticed
an article entitled “No Bottom in Greece After 5
Years.”  It compared
the present situation here to the Great Depression of 1929
in America
and lamented that the Greeks can only wish they had it so
good. Here,
unemployment is nearly thirty per cent. In almost every
indicator, the graphs reveal a persistent gloom.
According to our guide,
who is a brilliant historian, it is reminiscent of the
late 1930’s. He
fears that Europe, as a whole, is in a slide that will
not turn around.
Few seem to want to give up deeply entrenched rights,
even if it means
bringing the economy down with them. There does not seem
to be enough
incentive to change the structures that created this
mess. It serves as
a warning to us in the States who face a growing, similar

I cannot help but wonder where the church is in all of
this. Just as in
our nation, this is the time for the church to be the
salt that keeps a
nation from decaying, the light that shows the way
through the darkness.
Where’s the leadership that rises with a moral voice to
call people back
to God, back to humility, back to righteousness, back to
beauty, and
away from greed? Ninety-eight per cent of the country
identifies itself
as Greek Orthodox, but it’s impact on culture seems to be
minimal at
best. Like so many other countries in Europe and the
West, only a small
percentage “practice” their faith (i.e. attend
a religious service). But
even this does not guarantee that one is a true follower
of Jesus. My
guess is that there are few who truly follow Christ,
consider themselves
as disciples committed to hearing from God and following
His will. Not
so many “demonstrate God’s holiness,” something
that kept Moses from
entering the land (Num 27:14). Not so many fear God; not
so many love
God. As Platt puts it in his newest book, “we have
minimized Jesus’
summons to total abandonment.”

It’s much like a conversation that I had with a young man
named Robert
in 1998. I was flying from Stavanger, Norway back to
Amsterdam, sitting
next to this man wearing his Hell’s Angel leather jacket.
Robert was a
truck driver who was taking time off to go to a Hell’s
Convention in Amsterdam (I try not to imagine what that
must have been
like). I asked Robert where he stood with God. He
described himself as a
Lutheran. Whether he was a practicing Lutheran, I do not
know. I doremember this, that when I asked him why he wore a jacket
that proudly
wore the symbols of the anti-Christ, Robert saw no
disconnect with his
Lutheran identity. Given what he wore, I asked Robert if
he hated God.
He was quick to say no. But when I asked him if he loved
God, he had no
answer. It’s only a guess, but if I asked the same
question here, I
would likely get a similar response. And at the root of
hopelessness, the depression, the lifelessness that
describes this
place–is the absence of such an affection.

  • Candace
    9:54 PM, 18 March 2013

    A good reminder that we DO have a future if we put our hope in the right things and Person! And Randy Archer’s prayer meeting tonight was Spirit Full. If I’d read this before, I would have added the people of Greece to my prayers. Well I guess I still can and I will.

  • Topher
    2:58 AM, 17 April 2013

    I thank you humbly for shranig your wisdom JJWY

  • Bobbi
    2:58 AM, 17 April 2013

    At last! Someone with real expertise gives us the anwser. Thanks!

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