I believe that most people would agree that America is dangerously divided. In fact many would go further and argue that we are irreconcilable. Axios’ Mike Allen recently wrote that the findings of polling on the recent violence in Charlottesville “reflect the fact that, because of the nation’s partisan divide and fractured media, we no longer agree on basic facts. That makes civil debate impossible.”
In a disintegrating culture, the Church of Jesus Christ is faced with core questions about how it will respond. It is human to move directly to fear. Many of us look at the the lines of engagement and see those on the other side as the enemy – potential oppressors. We seek to gain power to protect ourselves and our beliefs. It is also human to attempt to blame others for the destruction we see. And it is human to withdraw, to run or hide. But these are not Christlike answers. If we claim to follow Jesus, our current American crises is also a crisis of faith for the Church. We have to ask ourselves whether we have truly been given power to bring peace, hope and redemption, and if so, how do we go about doing this. Is there a possibility that America can actually be saved by the Church?
There are clear Biblical promises on avoiding national destruction. Unfortunately, the best known Bible verses on these issues are also the most misapplied. Let’s look at one of the most relevant. 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people who are called by My name . . .” I have seen hundreds of posts on blogs, Facebook, and twitter that reference this verse and call America to repent or face destruction. The American church has a long and storied heritage of calling others to repentance. Unfortunately though, “My people which are called by My name” are not America. Instead, they are the church itself. What if the Church of Jesus Christ – followers of Jesus in America coming together for the common purpose of serving Him – have within their grasp the salvation of our country. What if we just lack the humility, mission focus, and love to recognize it. How awful it would be to find ourselves fleeing the burning wreckage of the American dream of freedom and hope, only to realize that, just as 10 righteous men could have saved Sodom and Gomorrah, we could have redeemed our own nation. The principle found in II Chronicles 7:14 by its terms simply doesn’t apply to America at large. It applies to those who are identified by the name of Christ.
“. . . will humble themselves, pray and seek my face . . .” But it’s not our fault! We feel we have no part in the divisions we see. Honestly, we are God’s people. We are the good in our culture. Why should we have to humble ourselves when it is the evil of our culture that is destroying our country? Well the short answer is, “because God says so.” But the longer answer is because we aren’t as good as we like to think. The fact that America is attacking itself is evidence that we have failed to be Salt and Light. No one is standing between our country and the spiritual forces of this present darkness. Jesus asked, “if the salt loses its savor, how will it be restored?” The answer to this question is not morality, it’s not political activism, and it’s not monasticism. The answer is in Repentance. A return to the path that we are called to follow as witnesses for Christ.
“and turn from their wicked ways . . .” We have a fundamental misperception of the nature of sin. At its core, sin is not rule-breaking, law-breaking, or even immorality. The lie the serpent sold in the garden was that by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man would become “like God.” This is the core of wickedness – choosing our own path, even one that appears good, or appears to serve what we think are God’s purposes – over the specific path and identity Jesus calls us to. Until the Church stops following leaders because of their charisma, making decisions based on what the majority thinks, and serving its own interests in service, it is certainly wicked. A true Church body making godly decisions will be found on its knees waiting on God’s answers. Because we don’t understand, and as our own gods, we are useless. Isaiah 55:8.
“then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The answer to America is not us being in control. Our call is not to rule. If we return to being the servants of the Gospel we are called to be. If we exercise faith in small things in the communities in which we live. If we love. If we individually hold ourselves for our own sin, instead of judging America. If we take individual responsibility for who we are. If we elevate Jesus in our own lives and tell people who he is to us. If we pray. Then America can be restored.