I finished the series of posts on what being a real Christian means, and I feel that a good follow-up topic would be a subject of much discussion among Evangelicals today, which is whether the United States as a whole is turning away from Biblical morality and will face various crises as a result. Now, before we start, I should mention that this is not a political essay or a commentary on current events.
I think that Romans Chapters 1 and 2 have a lot of relevance to the subject of national morality. Here’s Romans 1: 28-32:
“And since they [Gentile pagans] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”
Sound familiar? You have probably heard of many people and places in the U.S. today where those characteristics are found. Preachers may cite Hollywood, social liberals, public schools, college fraternities, and so on. Basically, it’s the so-called worldly people. But at the opening of Romans 2, Paul turns the tables against the churchgoing culture:
2:1-4: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?”
I think that passage is supposed to make Christians say, “Huh? How can you say I do the same things as ___? When was the last time you saw me in a sexy music video? I’ve never committed murder. I’ve never said anything blasphemous about God; I don’t even use His name in exclamatory outbursts. You think I’m proud and boastful? I’m not the one with expensive cars or clothes. And envy? Good grief, I’m still happy with my flip phone!”
Well, the problem with those self-justifications is that Biblical morality, especially in the New Testament, goes beyond outwards acts. Furthermore, many passages challenge Christians to ask themselves whether their lifestyle indicates that they are true believers in the first place as there are both sins of commission and sins of omission (James 4:13-17, 1 John 3:17). I do acknowledge that there are Christian who genuinely live out Biblical morality, both internally and externally. If your conscience testifies that you are at least sincerely trying to live according to Scripture in every aspect of life (Rom. 2:15), then what I am about to say does not apply to you.
Paul wrote in Romans 2 that “in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself . . . do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?”
As for me, my conscience does not assure me that, if the nation were to fall because of its deeds, that I would be spared because of my deeds. I’m a rather introspective person, and I have seen things within myself that do not go over too well with certain Scriptures. Although my sins of commission may not be too long, my sins of omission is probably a longer list. This is why, I personally cannot say that the country will decline because of its deeds. If I say that, I am predicting the same fate for myself. This is not a matter of national unity. If I say that some guy in New Zealand will lose God’s protection because of sins in his life, I’m saying that I myself will lose God’s protection.
Now, if you’ve read the Bible carefully and your conscience tells you that you really are living as the Bible instructs, then you have truly overcome the world, and you have the right to say anything you want about it. You can count on God’s blessing regardless of what happens around you. Some of you out there have reached this point. But what about people like myself, and probably many of you as well, who are not so sure that we make the cut? Is our fate tied to the United States? Well, I believe it doesn’t have to be that way, and there is a special message in the Book of Romans for such people, which is what I wrote about in my “Being a Real Christian” series.
When we come to realize how Christ died and rose again not only as a substitutionary atonement but also to set us free from sin’s control over our lives, and we ask God to help us experience this freedom, it is like God sets us apart from the world and starts a special process in us. Sometimes, intermediate steps involve having certain problems when other people aren’t (Hebrews 12:6-8). But, it’s all about helping us learn deeper truths about life and becoming what we were made to be. And at this point, our future is not tied to any nation.
So, then, if I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist regarding nation affairs, is there a framework to pray for the country? I believe there is, although I do not pray with complete faith that any temporal event will happen or not happen. After all, 2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to Satan as the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), which I take to mean that neither myself nor God can directly force a change in circumstances in a way that bypasses human correspondence. So, I instead pray with faith that, in some way, there will be individuals who experience God’s redemptive processes and come to know the freedom that they can experience in Christ. I do also pray about temporal events as God’s guidance can sometimes influence people in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-3), but my faith is not hinged on any course of events.
Thus, my focus is on individuals rather than the abstract concept of a nation. I want for individuals to be able to gain new insights on life and the Christian faith, so that some people who previously rejected Christianity may see it with new lenses, and that some people who are already believers may gain a deeper perspective that will help them in life, and that regardless of what national events occur, God’s work in these ways will be carried out for certain people. Although I cannot know what will happen to the “nation,” I do know that every day there are people who come into the Christian faith, and Christians who gain new insights from resources made available by preachers and authors, and I pray that this work of God will continue moving forward. As Christ himself said (Matt. 7:7), “search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”