Where do we go from here?

“I just don’t understand it all.”  I seldom turn on the news anymore which is a huge shift for me, once a news addict. I purposefully ignore politics, another shift.  Yes, it is inarguably true that America has rapidly lurched in a new direction in the last 12 months.  Once widely held values about faith, family, self-sufficiency, and responsibility are quickly disappearing.  Belief in ‘God,’ the Personal deity Who came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who desires to know us and Who’s will for us is compelling, is being erased from our public conversation.

Russell Moore, in his book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, writes of his conversation with a woman who identified herself as politically progressive, atheist, and lesbian. She was curious about Biblical  Christians and they had a respectful discussion of core Christian beliefs and practices. She told him that he was the first person she had ever met who thought that sex belonged only in marriage between a man and woman. At the end of the conversation she said, “So, do you see how strange what you are saying sounds to those of us out here in “normal America?”

Before you stop reading and conclude that Jerry is a sad old man lost in the haze of nostalgia about  the ‘good, old days’ let me complete my thoughts, then you can decide.  I would be the first to tell you that the myth of a “Christian America” is largely that – a myth. The Founders were not evangelical Christians, nor were their lives marked by impeccable morality!  The racism of the 19th century, the sexism of the 20th, the war-mongering of the military industrial complex – yes, that was America.  

At the same time, I can rightly insist that foundational ideas about humanity, the basic values that shaped our nation: freedom, individuality, monogamy, respect for law, industriousness, responsibility, a theoretical ideal of equality for all – are ideas drawn from the Bible.  Scripture gives us a high view of humanity – informing us that are made by our Creator who ‘endowed us with inalienable rights’ and that ultimate justice flowed from the knowledge that all – great and small- would stand before His judgment. Even those who had no personal knowledge of God were affected by the assumptions that formed the world they lived in. That world view is still existing, but not for long given that those who shape our society discarded even the forms of Christianity long ago.

The question I am wrestling with is – how should I respond to this quickly changing world?

  • We have seen some descend into anger, the ready to engage in culture wars, using every lever of power to try to hang onto what once was. That has only served to deepen the divide and convinced those of a secular mindset to dismiss Christians as cranks or worse, religious terrorists.
  • Some of us are afraid, in full retreat, concluding that the best way to ensure the survival of Christianity is to live inside of an isolated sub-culture.
  • And there are those who keep trying to tell us that the self-denial that part of being a disciple of Christ must be redefined by rounding off the sharp edges of conviction to make “Jesus” more acceptable. In some churches the cross – a symbol of sacrifice, is taken off the walls, too divisive to display.  The call to seek the best and highest expression of faith in a life devoted to God is replaced with a ‘moral, therapeutic deism,’  a God that exists at the fringes of ‘real’ life to make us ‘happy and self-fulfilled.’  The message that “God wants to have your best life now” fills our heads. 

In short, too often what passes for Christianity in 2021 is a thin veneer of “Jesus” is laid over lives that are, for the most part, indistinguishable from those of unbelievers. How will Christianity weather the storm in which she finds herself? 

My prayer is that Believers will seek a robust faith.  I hope that the institutionalized Christianity will become a deeply personal daily way of life. I fully expect that serving Jesus with Biblical convictions will have greater costs in terms of rejection of friends, family loss, and social ostracism.

But, just as God used the exile in Babylon to reshape the Jewish nation, to preserve His Word and people in new ways when they returned to Jerusalem a generation later, I believe He will use the ‘social exile’ of the Church to make His disciples distinctly different. Our hope will not be in our culture, but in Christ and His Cross, in our eternal home.  In these things, we will become, once again, messengers of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus describes His followers as ‘salt and light,’ engaged with the world in which they live as a preservative and flavor, yet as distinct from that world as light is from darkness!  

In Matthew 5 Jesus describes the ‘blessed life.’  Serious study of His challenging words will reveal that we must recapture a faith that is Christ-centered rather than self-centered.  I close with the ‘Blesseds’ as the word from the Word.  Read Jesus’ words and ask yourself – is this the life I desire as I love and follow Him?”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

lessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Matthew 5:3-12, NIV)

May Jesus’ love and beauty so fill us that the radiance lights our dark world. Amen.

___________________

How Great Is Our God

The splendor of the King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
And trembles at His voice

How great is our God
Sing with me
How great is our God
And all will see how great
How great is our God

And age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the End
Beginning and the End

The Godhead three in one
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash | Jesse Reeves © 2004 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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