On a quick trip to the Midwest on Monday and Tuesday, I drove through some of the small towns there. I saw once lovely old homes along wide streets that showed evidence of a past prosperity. But, now those same streets were cracked and unkempt. The houses were decaying, paint peeling, porches sagging. “What happened?” I wondered. A young black man working the desk at the motel where I stayed nodded at the TV where a neighborhood shooting death was being reported and said, “I live on that block and I’m afraid to go outside anymore.” “What happened?” I wondered. I watched several of the speakers at the Republican convention on Monday evening and concluded that they are angry! What I heard was a cry of rage at the state of the nation. “What happened?” I wondered.
This week the Republicans in Cleveland will blame the Democrats. Next week, the Democrats in Philadelphia will blame the Republicans. And, no matter who gets elected in November, most likely we’ll be dealing with the same malaise a year from now. So, who’s at fault? Take a look in the mirror. Say to that person, “I own my piece of this mess and I’m going to do my part to solve it.”
Alone, you or I, cannot solve economic problems brought on by trade agreements made in Washington or Wall Street deals that feed the rich at the expense of the poor. Alone, we cannot solve the complex social issues that have perpetuated poverty and crime. But, together, we can turn the focus of this land from Self to God. It begins with each one of us finding a place on our knees and dealing with our own sins.
Americans need to learn a thing or two from the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. How does a person start the road to sobriety and recovery? The first step is admitting that there is a real problem and that the problem is himself. It’s not his wife’s problem, his parent’s problem, or his boss’s fault! “Hi, I’m Jim and I’m an alcoholic,” he stands and says to a room of strangers. And, thus starts the long road of learning to accept responsibility, to make choices, and to work toward transformation.
If we hope to see our land healed, we need to say, “Hi, I’m an American and I’m a sinner!” Not a popular message, is it? It is so much easier to blame somebody else for what’s wrong. However, until we deal with our own greed, lust, hatred, lack of forgiveness, anger, racism, gossip, pride, or _______________ – we will not change. If we do not change, neither will America. Our politicians will not rescue us. In our republic the government is us, and therefore to change policies we have to change us.
Christian, we need to lead the way to change!
Note my choice of words. We cannot point the way to change, nor can we condemn others to drive them to change, nor can we just talk about the way to change. We LEAD the way by being transformed. People who are really born of the Spirit, who are alive in Christ, are in the process of transformation from sinner to saint. If you think that I am just talking about getting people back to church, think again.
Why have millions deserted churches over the last 20 years? Because religion without relationship only perpetuates the problem. Outsiders can see the hypocrisy of those who profess the orthodox creed of the Lordship of Christ and then live as their own god and they want nothing to do with it anymore. In contrast, there is an amazing beauty in those who have the Spirit working in their hearts and minds, who serve as Jesus’ hands in this world.
Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit of God move us.
“But what happens when we live God’s way?
He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism (writing lengthy lists of religious rules) is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Galatians 5:22-25, The Message)
Jesus, be Lord of my life!
Jesus, save ME from MY sins!
Jesus, pour the Spirit into my life!
Jesus, change ME! Amen