Ahhh, July. It’s usually very hot, crowded, and the ocean flat during this time of the year. But we have had some surprises. We’ve had rideable surf for 8 days now. That’s a gift we usually don’t get here. It’s still crowded, what with all of the guests in town to enjoy our beach. But the heat is definitely on in more ways than one.
This is a political year like no other political year. I’ve never seen such polarization and outright anger and hatred from not only the non-believing public, but believers too. I’m really concerned about our country, but I’m encouraged about the Kingdom of God. I’m even encouraged about the church.
I did a stint in the religious/political arena years back during the Reagan years. No, I didn’t run for any office (though I’ve thought about it a few times). A couple of friends and I put together an amendment to try and stop easy access to abortions during this time (along with supporting adoption and homes for children that weren’t wanted) and I learned quite a bit about how deep and passionate our feelings can run in this country. It’s easy to let your pet convictions lead you to a place of all-out radicalism if you’re not careful. It seems as if we’re at that place again, but even more so now. I don’t quite get why people hate President Bush so much. It’s baffling to me. I can understand being in disagreement with his way of doing things, or maybe even his philosophy on how to deal with terrorism, but this extreme, caustic, bitterness is amazing to me.
The Puritans, while trying to build a new life here, realized that the greatest enemy to seeing a country become what God intends for it is not primarily the devil. Puritan theologian Richard Baxter said this, “Man’s fall was his turning from God to himself; and his regeneration consisteth in the turning of him from himself to God … [Hence] self-denial and the love of God are all [one]… The very names of Self and Own, should sound in the watchful Christian’s ears as very terrible, wakening words, that are next to the names of sin and Satan.”
Thomas Hooker, another influential pastor during those early days said, “Not what Self will, but what the Lord will!” I fear we, in the church, are in danger of forgetting that. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, how can you be encouraged then?”
I’m encouraged because I know the Kingdom is NOT of this world. We, as the church, need to be reminded that we are IN this world, but we too are NOT OF this world. Paul, in Romans, tells us very clearly that we are to be good citizens (that was hard for me when Bill Clinton was president, nonetheless, I had to be), and we are told to pray for our leaders. I wonder how many fellow believers that disagree with Bush are actually praying FOR him. It’s funny but I found it easier to pray for Clinton than Bush. I guess I know by now that you can’t continue to despise someone if you’ll pray for him or her. I found myself praying for BC’s salvation, his family, his daughter, and his struggle with addictions, and his incredible giftedness as a communicator. There’s no doubt to me that he had, and has, a gift. But like so many of us, we can allow “self” to rob us of what it means to serve.
I need to pray more for our country, for our leaders and President. I need to read more and get better informed instead of just leaning on one side, if you catch my drift. And most of all, I need to read my bible and seek out God’s plan for governments. I need to read books on the history of this country and the values it was founded upon. I need to dialogue with people who believe differently than myself so I can be sure of what I believe. Why should I get angry if I’m sure I’m on the right track? I believe my anger shows most of all when my belief system is challenged and I’m not secure in my convictions. We get mad when we’re threatened or insecure.
Jesus said he would build his church, and not even the gates of hell could stop it. I take great comfort in those words, along with him saying he would never leave us, nor forsake us. That’s especially comforting when we have, maybe as many, as 2 million zealots trying to kill us.
The church has always grown and been its best in the midst of trying times. It appears we are going to have the opportunity to experience that.
“Our liberties do not come from charters; for these are only the declarations of preexisting rights. They do not depend on parchment or seals; but come from the King of Kings and the Lord of all the earth.” John Dickinson, 1776