Yet, it doesn't take great insight to see that our country is in grave trouble today. There is more discord in America today that at any time since the Civil War was fought over 150 years ago. Republicans against Democrats, liberal against conservative, urban against rural. We only have to look at the discord in the last election and in it's aftermath to see that there is little that binds us together today. Could it be that we have lost our way? Could it be that we have missed something crucial it what makes America America?
For almost 200 years, this country by and large existed as the most religious nation on earth. Our founders insisted that only a religious and moral people could enact the republican form of government that they instituted for us in 1787. In the excellent video "Was America Founded to be Secular?", Joshua Charles quotes one of those founders and our second president, John Adams, in stating, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Likewise, another founder, James Madison, who would become our fourth president, stated quite succinctly, "The belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good is...essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man..." For these men and so many others who were instrumental in the founding of the United States, religion, and particularly the Christian religion, was indispensable to the maintenance of the precious liberties with which we were entrusted.
Yet, it is not the Christian religion per se but the byproducts of true Christianity which have served our nation well in the past. It is not only because we have become much more secular, but because those of us who call ourselves Christian have largely failed to practice true religion and real Christian living that we find ourselves in the mess we are in. It is because the church of Jesus Christ has failed to be the "city set on a hill" and "the light of the world" (see Matthew 5:14), that we dwell in so much moral darkness today. Jesus said that we are to be "the salt of the earth", but if the salt has lost it's saltiness, it is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (see Matthew 5:13) And that is exactly what has happened. Because we Christians have stopped acting like Jesus, we have lost the ability to be the preserving influence in our society, and, as a result, Christianity has largely been thrown out and trampled under foot by those who see nothing but hypocrisy in us. The baby has indeed been thrown out with the bathwater, but I'm afraid we Christians are the ones who ruined the bathwater!
So what am I saying? I am saying that because we Christians have stopped acting like Christ, secular men and women have seen no virtue in our religion, and have understandably rejected all religion. Because Christianity has largely been rejected in our country, we have lost the moral basis that is one of the most necessary requirements of a free society. I am saying humbly to my Christian brothers and sisters, IT'S OUR FAULT!
But is there a way out? Absolutely! Two-thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul gave us the amazingly simple antidote to all of our problems today:
The answer, put simply, is love! We as Christian people MUST walk in the self-sacrificial love of Christ if we are to maintain our witness in the society around us. Yes, we must speak truth without wavering, but in doing so we must have the love in Christ abounding in us as we speak it. Too often that has not been the case. The world has seen a quarreling and fighting, bickering and arguing people in churches and have said, "No thank you!" Can we really blame them?
You see, love is truly the answer to everything. When we "love our neighbors as ourselves," (see Matthew 22:39), we only want good to come to those around us. We are happy when they succeed, even when it is at our expense. We will stop insisting on OUR RIGHTS and start loving all of our neighbors, especially those who don't see things as we do. Jesus said it this way...
(Matthew 5: 43-45)Do you know that when you start loving your enemies and begin to sincerely pray for their eternal and temporal welfare, your enemies stop being your enemies? Whether they see you as an enemy or not, you start seeing them as a friend. Now, imagine this one act of mercy multiplied millions of times every day in every corner of our country? How long do you think that we would still have the problems that we see in front of us today? I say, not very long at all!
Am I being hopelessly naive? Perhaps so. Yet, at other previous junctures in our country's history, God has granted us seasons of spiritual renewal....sometimes called revivals or awakenings. We are in critical need of one of those times today. As the psalmist said many centuries ago, "Will You not Yourself revive us again?" (Psalm 85:6) I believe that not only is spiritual renewal and revival possible in 2017, it is absolutely imperative. And the same God who gave us the First Great Awakening in the 1740's (which changed the character of our country and prepared us for the times of revolution a few years later), the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century, as well as so many subsequent times of renewal and revival, can yet "revive us again", giving us the ability to truly "love our neighbors as ourselves." That is my prayer on this Independence Day, 2017. Will you not join me in this prayer for revival today?