Thursday, June 04, 2009

One Nation Under God

Have you received one of those emails that quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 at the top of the post? I don’t have one in front of me because, after reading it the first time, I quickly deleted any duplicate copies. Besides, these emails distress me. The originator of the email meant well and is on the right path. Citizens of the United States do need to pray for our nation. Yet using this Scripture as a proof text for praying for our nation’s success is misleading and short-sighted, I believe. Here’s why:

Posts like the current one that is circulating insinuate that the United States of America is a privileged, blessed people. “If my people who are called by my name” refers to the Old Testament nation of Israel. Today, it refers to Christians, no matter what nationality. I remember the beautiful feeling I had when I sat in a circle in Vienna Austria with believers from all over the world. The comment was made that we were not citizens of the United States, Bulgaria, Poland and so forth. We were citizens of one kingdom, the Kingdom of God and thus, equal in the sight of God. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is addressed to God-believers no matter what nation, no matter what foundation of faith their nation has been built upon. The United States of America does not have the corner market on faith in Jesus Christ, nor does God view us as any better than believers in any other country.

These posts also emphasize one part and maybe two of God’s conditions. We jump to the phrase “pray.” We take a passing glance at the phrase “humble themselves” since praying does take a certain amount of humility. Asking God for His help and blessing admits that I cannot do it on my own, that I need God to succeed. That is a good thing. Prayer and humility go hand in hand.

Yet, we stop there. We ignore the next two phrases, “seek My Face” and “turn from their wicked ways.” “Seek My face” means more than just “getting to know you” as Debra Carr sings in “The King and I.” The phrase, “seek My face” biblically means to earnestly look for ways to please God. This definition is confirmed by the next phrase in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “turn from their wicked ways.”

Our nation will not be blessed by God until we individually and corporately seek the face of God and turn from our wicked ways. I’m not even going to get into finger pointing and discussing how our government and culture has strayed far from the ways of God. I’m concerned about individual Christians. Remember who “my people” are! Too many American Christians are like the Israelites in the prophet Elijah’s time. We’ve got one foot on God’s side and the other foot kneeling toward the Baals of our culture. We need to make a choice. Who will we serve, wholeheartedly, unswervingly? We need to ask God to search our hearts to see if there is any wicked way in us and seek His guidance toward the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23,24).

If we do this, our culture will change. If we are willing to stand up for our faith, in all facets of our lives, the world will sit up and take notice. At first, we may suffer the slings and arrows of an outraged media. But soon, if we live consistently, we will begin to have impact on our culture and corporately, our nation will turn and start the uphill climb back toward God. I truly believe that many Christians are ridiculed because they say one thing about Jesus and do another.

The change will start with our children They’ll learn from our example of what is important to us. They’ll learn to make wise choices, to seek God, to turn away from wickedness. They’ll put God first above ball games, relationships, Nintendo, and addictions because they see Mom, Dad and Teacher living what they believe.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:12)” is printed on a t-shirt I recently bought. Let each one of us do our part to show our children and the rest of our culture that God comes first in our lives – above all else. Then our nation will be blessed.


Jim G said...

I heartily agree!! It is so nice to hear (read) someone CORRECTLY interpret this passage!

Allow me, if I may, to add one more thought I've had for many years on this topic of America being “God’s chosen people”. I believe it is not enough for us to exemplify moral, principle-based Christian living (though that is certainly needed), nor can we simply legislate morality by electing officials who will create laws that the non-believer will ignore and surreptitiously violate. I think this kind of "behavior control" was tried before -- under the Law? And it seems to me that Christ was thinking along these lines when He said, "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
lewdness “ (Mark 7:20ff) In other words, shouldn’t we be working on changing hearts – one by one – rather than behaviors? Then, won’t the desired behavior follow? Didn’t the early Church change the world from the inside-out, not the outside-in? Wasn’t that one of the things our Lord taught us?

Sometimes, I wonder if we aren’t actually trying to take a shortcut when we attempt to change people’s behavior by creating more laws and focusing our attention on their outward acts. Of course, this is not a new problem – Paul wrote many of his letters to Christians who had forgotten or misconstrued the life-changing power of God’s Grace and had slipped back into some sort of “legalism” So, perhaps it is natural that we tend to focus on behavior, on legislation, on law, instead of on the heart as a way to change our country.

I have always asked myself, “Why would we expect those who are not disciples of Christ to follow Him and His ways? Why are we surprised when our fellow Americans, who for the most part are “Christian” in name only, don’t follow God in their lives? Are not truly bothered by infidelity in relationships? Believe a woman should have the right to “control her own body”, even if it means the death of another human being? If their hearts have not been changed, then why would we expect their behaviors to change?

Could it be possible that our country is in such a moral morass because so many of us Christians have not done our job? I'm not talking about printing more bumper stickers, picketing more abortion clinics, signing more petitions, or even going to more retreats and conferences -- I'm talking about winning hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. We, the Church, have not faithfully remembered and carried out the imperative Christ gave to us, as recorded in Matthew 27, to “MAKE” disciples. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves once again that the emphasis is on “making” disciples, not on the “going”. Just imagine, if we were to disciple more journalists and truly engage in the “Ministry of Reconciliation”, perhaps there would be less anti-Christian bias in the media? fewer liberals in Congress? less (fill-in-the-blank) in the world because there would be more true followers of Christ?

Thanks be to God for Christian educators like you, Karen. You are changing their hearts and minds while they are young, and if the rest of us in the Church will do our job to nurture and disciple them as they grow, perhaps we can turn America inside out.

Karen Wingate said...

Excellent thoughts, Jim. Thank you for sharing.