For years I’ve been pondering the question, What does it mean to live as a Christian in America? I have to admit that my conclusions look a lot like a pendulum—back and forth, back and forth as I wrestle with the complex issues that might lead me to a definitive answer.
I have come to at least one conclusion: I’m not sure that there is a definitive answer that can be set in concrete like the foundation of a building. There is a certain amount of fluidity to the idea of being Christians in a country whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, yet is fully secular in every fiber of its being and often seems opposed to Christ and His people.
Recently, I heard Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church near Atlanta, talk about the connection between Christians and American culture. He asked the question about what might be done to help America turn more toward God. His answer was rooted in a lack of humility and this lack of humility toward God and ultimately toward others is embedded in our affluence and prosperity. Because we have so much wealth and freedom, we have a tendency to ignore God. Unfortunately, the dearth of humility is just as prevalent among Christians as those who are not. In fact, I would argue—I think that he would as well—that our nation is so apathetic toward God because we Christians have bought into the same values and priorities and responses as the rest of the nation: our affluence and freedom—gifts from God—have led us to a spirit of self-sufficiency that turns to God only when we need Him.
Granted, this is an oversimplification of a very complex problem, but if I am honest with myself, it’s a problem that I wrestle with. When life is good and comfortable and stress-free, I tend to pray less fervently, I tend to seek God more casually, I tend to think that my strength can carry me a lot further than what is realistic. This is certainly a problem for the Israelites. The book of Judges is a cycle of God’s blessing, Israel’s comfort that leads to self-sufficiency that leads to ignoring God, God’s punishment that results in Israel being enslaved by neighboring nations, Israel’s prayers of humility asking for God’s help, God rescuing them and blessing them… I suspect that this is a cycle easily applied to most all of us.
As we celebrate Independence Day and probably lament the condition of our nation, we can blame people whose ideas about America and God differ from ours or we can take some responsibility, humble ourselves and pray for God to change our nation one person at a time…beginning with you and me.