A good bit of the nation has a little spring in its step. We seem to be well on the road to a renewal of our economic might, our diplomatic skill and our military strength. But as I have said in several posts now, to really make America great again we need more. There have been many mighty, skilled and strong nations that history has judged as less than great. In fact history is replete with with mighty, skilled and strong nations that have been evil actors either towards their populace or on the world stage. To be a great nation we need a national character that ensures our might, skill and strength are put to good use.
It would be easy to write off the wild gyrations and protestations of the Left in recent weeks to their “death throes,” but the fact that we are letting them get away with these shenanigans raises my concerns about character. Speeches are being cancelled in Berkeley and parades in Portland. We seem to lack the resolve to stand up to these people – a character failing. David French calls the people in Berkeley “cowards.” Certainly a character failing. A very significant portion of Republicans see freedom of the press as a problem. This is not so much a character failing as it is a failing at what underlies character – values. At a time when we are winning on so many levels, we seem to be failing on the character and value level. We will never be a great nation again unless we achieve success on all levels.
I have been arguing that we will only be great again when Christianity is restored to a position of influence in the nation. The idea of national character the biggest of the “why’s” I think that. Christianity is the source of our national values, even absent a national theology, and as we have said values are the root of character. I have also been arguing for a long time now that Christianity’s loss of influence is Christianity’s fault, not the nations. Our influence was not taken from us, we sacrificed it. We have made that sacrifice in a thousand ways, big and small, over decades. But the important question now is how do we reclaim it? I have two suggestions for this Sunday morning, one practical and one more spiritual in nature.
Practically speaking we need to stop letting the jerks win. The other day I dropped by a donation center to contribute some old clothes. The attendant told me they were not accepting donations that day because during the night someone had dropped off far more clothing than they could process. It was suggested I return in a couple of days. This suggestion was made while directly over the shoulder of the attendant was not one, but three, signs declaring the center could not accept donations when the center was closed – you know, like at night. I pointed out to the attendant that it hardly seemed reasonable that I should be inconvenienced by someone NOT following the rules which was answered with a shrug.
We really need to stop shrugging. We are not powerless in the face of the lunacy that confronts us daily. It is not unloving to say “No,” even if the person the “No’ is directed towards tells you it is. We need to once again begin to reward the good and ignore, if not punish, the bad. For example, the attendant should have prioritized processing the properly made donations (reward) while processing the improperly made ones only as time allowed. This is why even though my heart aches for the true refugee, I am not too exorcised about increasing our border security. A porous border rewards the jerks and belittles those that enter and stay in the country legally.
Think about all the situations in your life where the jerks take advantage of you. It does not have to be a big deal; it could be as small as that jerk who cut in the grocery line. It is OK to say “Excuse me, the line begins back there a bit;” it’s not petty. Yes the person on the receiving end will accuse you of being petty, but all you’re doing is standing for what is right and good – just ignore the accusation. It’s only petty if we turn ugly, so don’t.
Spiritually speaking we need to meditate on and study our values.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phil. 4:8)
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jer. 31:33)
We need to be pre-occupied by that which we value. This is how we avoid turning ugly. When our hearts and minds are permeated with what we value and with the character those values produce then such character will begin to be visible in us. It is so easy to let the jerks get us down. It is so tempting to be a jerk in return. To avoid those things we have to allow ourselves to be consumed by the good.
Much of our influence has been sacrificed on the alter of fitting in. Christians are not supposed to fit in – they are supposed to be better. But too often we accept others definitions of “better.” It is only when we devote ourselves to thinking about what actually is better that we can begin to rise to it. Spend time reading about what is good. Read the Bible and read what people say about the Bible. Digest what you read. Do not let the words flow through you like the last blockbuster movie you enjoyed but cannot remember in any detail. Rather let each word settle in your mind to be evaluated and when it passes that evaluation let it settle on your heart to be held forever.
A good place to start might be this devotional that landed in my inbox Friday. Note how it equates Christian maturity with expanding our hearts and our prayers. Maybe you want to pray that God expands your heart in such a way. Maybe you want to pray for our nation. You really should pray for the church in our nation.
You see, whatever greatness we do achieve is not our own – it is a reflection of the source of all that is good and great. To be such a reflection we must take in a full view of that which we wish to reflect. We reflect God and the nation reflects us. That is the greatest of greatness.