Friday evening I watched the demonstrations that spread across the nation after the announcement that that Supreme Court had reversed the infamous Roe V. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion. The decision to return to the power to regulate the practice of abortion to the States was celebrated and condemned with equal fervor. I was filled with mixed emotions that evening. There was joy because I believe that life is a gift of God, a sacred thing that must be protected. At the same moment, I could feel the fear that was sweeping through the lives of many who felt that a ‘right’ was stripped away. It is all but impossible to even begin to grasp the complex issues surrounding life’s sacred value in street demonstration. Signs and slogans do not begin to capture the nuance of human relationships or to reveal how very difficult the decisions are that come with conception, bearing and raising a child, and even the approach to life’s end.
Two Americas have emerged in recent years.
One holds that we are God’s, that our purpose and meaning for life are found in faith, in the surrender of ourselves to His will. I am one of those, a Christian whose desire is to know Him, love Him, and share His goodness with others, albeit imperfectly to be sure.
There is another America that looks for their greatest happiness in unrestrained self-expression. The idea of surrendering one’s Self to God is incomprehensible. The many failures of religion only reinforces the belief that the greater good is found in the individual who seeks his own happiness above all. Those two world-views are irreconcilable and lead to very different ways of defining what is ‘true’ and/or ‘best’ for the world. For a time these two Americas managed to co-exist but the last decade we have witnessed escalation of the conflict, a bitter struggle to control the hearts and minds of the nation.
Those of us who claim the Name of Christ Jesus must re-commit ourselves to genuine peace, to seek resolution of conflict, to enter into real conversations. Too often we have resorted to the same kind of militancy and power plays that others practice. Christians noisily shout for ‘rights’ and build political coalitions much the same as those without faith, in the process invalidating the truth of belonging to God and trusting Him that we profess.
Paul proclaims God’s way teaching us that “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV)
Christians, including yours truly, made a terrible mistake 40 years ago by giving support to groups like the ‘Moral Majority.’ Even writing that phrase makes me feel a sense of shame for the pride it displays. We were tricked by politicians who used the church’s rhetoric but did not practice the gospel of Christ. We bought the lie that the ‘end justifies the means’ and blindly supported policies that were at complete odds with following Christ Jesus. The hypocrisy of a politicized ‘faith’ only made conversations about Jesus more difficult in an increasingly secular society. In far too many ways our faith became twisted so that “Jesus” was turned into a god who would make us healthy, wealthy, and happy.
Millions of Christians gladly turned a deaf ear to His call to self-denial, sacrifice, and service of the least and the lost. Even our Worship was redefined and refocused from God to Self, subtly but certainly; from a time to come into the Presence of the Lord with a humble heart, to a time of self-improvement and self-exaltation. Pastors were retrained to become ‘leaders’ instead of servants. Reverence and repentance disappeared from the vast majority of churches as we celebrated “God’s love” which we claimed would give us our ‘best life now.’ All the while we believed that somehow the spiritual wholeness of our land would come from our politicians. And here we are … a tragic and sad place where sin flourishes and God’s Name is held in contempt.
The ancient words need to live in us, calling us to spiritual renewal. They are full of promise. “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NLT) In our response, let us start with humility! “God, I need You,” must be our prayer. Let us replace angry condemnation with compassion.
As people of the Kingdom of Heaven our primary message is about reconciliation with God, about the hope that is found in Christ Jesus who makes us, once again, who we are created to be, God’s children. Because we are His we need not live in anger or fear for we are given daily renewal by the Spirit and great hope in Christ, our Lord.
Here is a word from the Word. May it live in us this day.
“Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness. “I, even I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Yet you have forgotten the Lord, your Creator, the one who put the stars in the sky and established the earth.
Will you remain in constant dread of human oppression? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies from morning till night? Soon all you captives will be released! Imprisonment, starvation, and death will not be your fate! For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar. My name is the Lord Almighty. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely within my hand. I set all the stars in space and established the earth. I am the one who says to Israel, ‘You are mine!’ ”” (Isaiah 51:11-16, NLT)
(A beautiful, heart-felt prayer. Pray along with this song.)
Be Thou my vision
O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought
By day or by night
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light
Be Thou my wisdom
Be Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee
And Thou with me Lord
Thou my great Father
I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling
And I with Thee one
High King of heaven
When vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys
O bright heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart
Still be my vision
O Ruler of all
Eleanor Henrietta Hull | Mary Elizabeth Byrne
© Words: Public Domain