“The wind is strong and the water’s deep, but I’m not alone in these open seas, ’cause Your love never fails. The chasm is far too wide. I never thought I’d reach the other side, but Your love never fails” – Jesus Culture, “Your Love Never Fails”
I’ve been a churchgoer for nigh on 20 years now. Has it really been that long [I ask myself]? I guess so. I bring that up only to note that during that time I have run across any number of folks who wanted to lodge this or that complaint against the behavior of persons in the church. Somehow I have become a bit of a sounding board for that. Most of the complaints are innocent enough and stem from a genuine desire to see the church, the community of believers, prosper and thrive.
Sometimes the complaints are a little more focused, a little more frustrated, a little angrier. Dismissing the times that these come from folks who really want somebody in the church to take care of their problems (something not unheard of – we are one body), there are plenty of instances to point to of genuine frustration over some non-functioning portion of the church. In these cases, I have found that my best response, after listening carefully and compassionately, has been “the thing you want the church to become is the very thing you need to become.” You see, we the people, are the church. The church as a corporate entity will be nothing other than us. (Yes, it will be us working with the power of God – but the power of God working through … wait for it … us.)
I suppose the same must be true of America, a representative democracy. We the people are America. America will be nothing other than what we are. No, that does not mean that we tacitly agree with every failure of governance, or that we are each to be held responsible for those same failures. (I personally try to leave myself a clear conscience when voting.) But it does mean that we are the fundamental building block of anything America becomes. When it becomes something other than that, it ceases to be a representative government.
Glenn Beck hit on this notion quite intentionally at the Restoring Honor rally in DC on 8/28. Instead of focusing on politics, the focus turned inward. Let us each look to ourselves, to restoring the things we have lost from our own lives, to restoring principles of faith, hope, and charity. When we become these things America will follow suit.
We see ample evidence of this process borne out in the Old Testament. The children of Israel would stray from God, worshiping other gods and committing horrible atrocities (from sexual sins to child sacrifice – don’t jump to judgments just yet though America). When the word of God came down through the prophets explaining the punishment that was to come, it was often the practice of the prophets to repent on behalf of the people. They would repent for sins that they themselves likely had not committed. (Now, we don’t believe necessarily in collective guilt – each man will give account for himself. Nonetheless, we do see this capacity for corporate repentance for the sins of the nation, carried out by a few representatives who turn to God.)
Consider the prayers of Daniel (Daniel 9), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-11), Ezra (Ezra 10:1), or Moses (Exodus 34:8-9). Great men of God, humbly confessing and praying for the sins of their countrymen.
Now, I don’t want to wade too deep into theology and the concept of identificational repentance. (Perhaps I’ll email my buddy OTS and ask his thoughts.) My point is merely that we, as Christians, can certainly pray for our nation, stand in the gap for our nation, and confess to God the sins that shackle the people of this nation. Repentance, asking for forgiveness, open honesty with God – this is the first step, the crucial step, in becoming something new. Without it, there is no renewal. But with it, we submit ourselves to the hands of the Potter, and He will make us what He will.
Then let us go on to become the America that we want. Do you want a more compassionate America? Then look for ways to show more compassion. Do you want a more giving, or faithful, or honest America? Then make it so in your own lives. America as a corporate body can only be what we the people are.