This past Independence Day was somewhat somber for me, and I know I’m not alone in that.
Huge changes have been taking place in our country, and for the first time in my life, I can really identify with older generations who pine for “the good ol’ days” and who, though lifelong citizens, feel a bit like strangers in their homeland.
It’s disconcerting, to say the least.
Most of you know that I am the wife of a Southern Baptist pastor, one who fundamentally holds to every letter of the Word of God, and so you probably don’t have to think too long and hard to figure out where I stand on many of the controversies that are boiling up in our nation today.
My beliefs are firm, they are rooted in an ancient text, and they’re not, by the grace of the God who caused me to love His precepts in the first place, going to be changing.
I’m still “crazy” enough to believe in absolute truth, and I believe with all of my heart that God has absolutely spoken truth about these issues, long before we ever began to face them.
There is pleasure in this realization, that, even if the entire world changes their mind on a subject, God will hold me fast and keep my feet and my beliefs from slipping, but, if I’m being honest, there is also a goodly amount of fear.
Christianity has always been so comfortable in the America I grew up in, and it didn’t ask too very much of me aside from going to church on Sunday and being nice to the folks who waited on me at the restaurant afterward.
And so, no, I don’t really WANT to be the odd man out.
I don’t want for people to dislike me, or think I am heartless or cruel.
I don’t want to be labeled a backwoods bigot for simply believing the same things that I have always believed, beliefs that most people were okay with until, like, yesterday.
I don’t want to be misrepresented by the world’s more-negative-by-the-minute idea of what Christianity is.
I like people, you see, and even better, I like it when people like me.
Still yet, even though I’m afraid, I sincerely don’t believe that Christians should stay separated from the state of affairs in the country of which they are citizens. In this beautiful democracy, we have a voice and we have a vote, and I want to always use both to stand up for what is true, not just for the good of my own family, but for my fellow man.
Because — and this is important — it’s not as if I’m just regurgitating what some talking religious head told me to say.
I really believe in the guidelines of the Bible, I believe they are the VERY WORDS of the God who made me, I believe they are true and right and helpful and that, if obeyed, will result in the only sort of joyful and fulfilling life that there is to live.
I believe this on faith, yes, but I also believe it because I have experienced it, firsthand. I have tested this life and, I kid you not, it is LEGIT, through and through.
Therefore, as one bearing testimony concerning the validity of God’s Word, it would be the epitome of “unloving” for me to leave my fellow citizens to fall down what I believe is a path of utter destruction.
How could I just shut my eyes and my ears to my culture when I have something so beautiful to offer them?
It would be a sick and cruel thing to do, and I would be the worst and most lowdown sort of human if I claimed the benefits of my religion without spreading the good news of it to others.
Thus, I pray that God will give me the extra courage to speak up and to speak the right words at the right time, and I’m praying the same for all who call him Master and King.
Which is exactly what led me to this blog post today.
We Christians have been doing a lot of talking, for a long time.
Some of this talking has been truly good and great. I am beyond grateful for the intelligent and wise and Spirit-led men and women of God who are representing us all on the frontlines of the culture wars. I’m praying for them and saying “Bravo!” every single step of the way.
But then some of our talking, sometimes, has great big holes in it, and it troubles me deeply.
The Church, more than ever before, is publicly calling on America to “REPENT”, quoting Scripture verses or the words of prominent Christians, and warning our country of God’s looming judgment.
It’s not as if I disagree with these statements, nor would I even be surprised to find that these recent cultural events ARE God’s judgment, allowing those in our nation to go the way they are stubbornly wanting to go. The first chapter of the book of Romans explicitly describes this sort of rebellion, to the letter, which I personally find kind of amazing.
But something’s missing, I think, in our bugle call, and it is simply this: I have been in church my entire life, and I think we have got to be kidding ourselves if we ever assume that all of the problems in America can be attributed to someone else.
Many of us are asking “America” to repent, and OH how I hope she does, but…
er, what about the Church in America?
Can we really say with 100% certainty God has been okay with the way we’ve been doing things?
Do we think He is proud of us?
Have we been representing Him well?
Has He been okay with the fact that we have gone soft on divorce for decades, sweeping it under the rug and allowing it into our midst?
Is He proud of the way we’ve allowed church members to treat one another, with envy and murmuring and speculation and strife?
Is He proud of the fact that many of us who claim to adore Him can only bear to sit in a church that has music that we like and a sermon that is twenty or less minutes long?
Is He proud that we manage to ingest hours and hours and hours of cultural entertainment but can hardly bear to crack open a Bible and read it?
Is He proud of the way we MAYBE give 10% of our income back to Him – and that’s from the most devout among us! – and spend the rest on our closets and our houses and our cars and our kids and our fun and our games and our future comfort and security while the majority of the world lives in indescribable suffering? Is He proud that we are basically pumping 90+% of our income into the culture that we say has turned its back on God?
Is He proud that we take our kids to church on Sunday but raise them as American-dreaming ladder-climbers the rest of the week?
Is He proud of the way we have bullied His pastors, blackmailing them with their paychecks and treating them more like butlers than shepherds?
Is He proud of our church splits and fights and factions, in maybe every single town in the nation?
Is He proud that we play the part of a devout believer but house secret sins in our private life that we never confess to anyone or get help with?
Is He proud that the only time we can really be counted on to pray is when we’re sitting down to a meal?
Is He proud that we are so ashamed of who He really is that we have dressed Him up and softened His words to make Him more palatable to our culture, and really, to ourselves?
Is He proud of the entertainment that we have allowed in our homes and the filth we have endorsed with our viewership?
In other words, do we REALLY and TRULY think that America would be a godly nation if we could only manage to get rid of so-called same-sex marriage and put prayer back in school?!
I don’t have all the answers – oh, my, not even close! – but sometime I just wonder if perhaps WE are the ones who need to repent, first, before we call on America to do so.
Perhaps we, the Church, should be humbling ourselves and seeking God’s face and turning from OUR wicked ways.
Perhaps, before we point out the specks in the eyes of unbelievers across America, we need to remove the logs from our own eyes.
Perhaps, before we post one more public call to America to “turn back to God” on Facebook, we need to write a public status update that apologizes for the thousands of ways we have failed our God, our families, our churches, our communities, our states, our country, our world.
Perhaps, if the people of God would get radically SERIOUS about being the people of God, He would bring a revival to our land like we’ve never seen!
I’m not a prophet or a woman preacher or even a Sunday School teacher, and I’m not trying to talk down to anyone or sound puffed-up or pretentious — and if I sound frustrated, believe me when I say that my frustration largely centers around my own apathy!!! — but I’m pretty sure that America is not going to be impacted by our spiritualized pins on social media.
It will be impacted when we start living like we want everybody else to live – in direct submission to God in all things – and we are never going to do that if we do not humble ourselves, repent of our sins, find out exactly how He wants to live in His Holy Word, and then…
Our real care for America won’t be seen by our Facebook version of a bumper sticker, but will be seen in the way we live at home when we’re stressed, in our churches when we’re sick of people, in our jobs when we have a chance to step on someone to make more money, in our neighborhood when we just want to ignore the people who live next to us, in our marriages when our spouse is just not doing it for us any more, in our parenting when our kids are challenging us on every front, and in the nitty gritty of our everyday, normal, sinful-but-redeemed lives.
Again, I am in no way saying that it is wrong for us to speak up and to share our convictions on social media.
As my husband reminded our church body this week, now is actually a GOOD time to do that. Our nation is being spoon-fed a distorted picture of reality, and we have a good chance to temper that by gently educating our friends and family in the ways of God.
But perhaps our movement needs to start from the ground up.
Let’s purify the bride of Christ, first, starting with ourselves.
Let’s direct our attention outward and shine our FACES off.
Dear friends, I will be spending this week asking God to reveal to me where I have failed Him, my family, my church, my former pastors, my past friends, my unbelieving friends, and my community, and I’m going to seek forgiveness first from Him, and then from those I have wronged.
I PRAY that you’ll join me in a movement of humility and repentance, for the glory of our great God and for the good of our beloved America.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.
By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
1 John 1:5 – 2:6
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