Every Fourth of July I am sobered yet more severely by the distance between where we have come and where we are going as a nation. I am not a fatalist. I do see good. I am encouraged by signs others seem to miss. I have not lost all hope, as many have. In fact, I am bothered by the shouts of those around me: “We’re going to hell in a hand basket!” (Whatever that means.) “It's the sign of the end times.” “Buckle down the hatch!” “Don't have any more children.” “You might as well give in to the avalanche.”
My head is not in the sand. You've heard the illustration of the frog who was put in the pot when the water seemed fine, only to discover that someone slowly turned up the heat until he was cooked. I would say that in the last few years somebody moved that knob from slow cook to high. "Wait, what are those bubbles that are beginning to form around the bottom's edge?"
So don't misunderstand me. I see the problems. And it is overwhelming. Never in my lifetime did I think that, in America, 1) I would be watching my religious freedoms erode before my eyes, or 2) that evil would be so bold as to aggressively behead Christians in front of the whole world, with few in America seeming to care, or 3) finding it hard to convince even the church that legalized abortion – which has led to the government-approved death of 55 million children since Roe vs Wade - is still the most important issue on the political table. And now, 4) the Supreme Court changes the definition of marriage that originated with God Himself.
No, my head is not in the sand. But while the heat is on the rise, why not ask the most important question?
What is it that America really needs?
What America needs is a true demonstration of Christ and His kingdom!
We have recently seen an amazing example of this.
On Wednesday, June 17th, a 21-year-old man attended a prayer meeting at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While these faithful believers prayed, studied the Bible, and even showed some love to their new visitor, Dylann Roof plotted to methodically pull the .45 caliber from his waist pack and murder nine innocent Christians of a different color, with the hope of starting a race war.
I have seen violence in our nation. I have been appalled by the deterioration of the human condition. This is one of the worst, no matter how you look at it.
But I hope you have been able to peel past the political rhetoric and take note of the response of the families of the victims, the church, and the community. We are seeing one of the greatest witnesses of Christ in the culture in my lifetime.
Within hours, the families of Dylann’s victims publicly forgave him for his horrific acts. They prayed and hoped he would find Christ in the days ahead. The community massively responded in support of these families, their church, and the implications of racial terrorism. Not only was the Sunday service packed, but thousands stood outside in the streets, listening to the service via an outdoor sound system.
And in order to highlight the point I am making, I want you to hear the words of the preacher in that pulpit Sunday morning, boldly proclaiming what every listening ear needed to hear. The Rev. Norvel Goff, now the appointed interim pastor of this church declared "The doors of the church are open. No evildoer, no demon in hell or on earth can close the doors of God’s church. Lots of folks expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot. Well, they just don't know us. We have shown the world how we as a group of people can come together and pray and work out things that need to be worked out." According to CNN, the congregation stood and cheered.
In my opinion, the whole body of Christ should stand up and not only cheer, but wake up out of the inoculation of its stupor, to rise up and be what God has called us to be!
What does America need? America needs for you and me to get out of our comfort zones and be the answer to the problems. It's not the government. It's not the media. It's the Church that has allowed a decline. And it is the Church that can turn the tide.
I do not wish tragedy on anyone. And God had nothing to do with the evil motives of the devil and Dylann Roof. But let the church learn to rise up and respond to the chaos of our day. Let us act like real Christians, loving our enemies and bringing peace to our communities. May the people of Emanuel AME lead us to the higher call of who we are in our culture.
What does America need?
What America needs is a church that is the light of the world and the salt of the earth!
Is the problem that the nation is not Christian? Or is the problem that Christians are not discipling the nation? Jesus did not say, "Make nations Christian." He said, “Make disciples of all the nations." Then the nations will take care of themselves.
May I suggest that instead of noticing only what America has become, we take a hard look at who we, the Church, have become? We are largely without influence. We have hidden behind walls. We have lived double lives - one at church and another in the community.
We have not loved the world. We have separated ourselves from the world. Even if we say that we do not hate, it does not mean that we have loved. Lack of relationship is lack of love expressed.
So, instead of huffing and puffing and getting angry about what the world is doing to your nation: Rise up! Give of your life in service to others, earn the right to be heard, and love them. Love them when they disagree with you. Love them when they change your laws. Love them when they hurt you. Love them when they kill your loved ones.
Jesus did! Even as they were killing Him, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
That is what America needs.