As we designate today as an official time to seek God, I’m reminded that God’s no quitter, but He’s been known to give up. Never because He’s weak; only because He’s done.
So when humanity went from bad to worse in Genesis, He warned, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” (Genesis 6:3) He meant that; just ask anyone who missed the boat.
Or check with the prophets, who spoke for Him to no avail, pleading with a once-great nation to remember not only its roots, but the God who laid them. They refused; He said, “Have it your way”, and they did. (Acts 7:51) Then there’s Jesus, lamenting over Jerusalem, saying He had so much for them but, since they rejected both it and Him, He’d withdraw until they finally and irrevocably acknowledge Him. (Luke 13:34-35)
Paul wrote about something similar when he described idolatrous Gentiles rejecting their Creator, saying to them, paradoxically, “Thy will be done.” (Romans:24-28) God gave up or, strictly speaking, God gave them up. He didn’t cause them to become reprobate, He only acknowledged their preference and said, “Knock yourselves out. I made your free will as surely as I made you, so what you want, you’ll have.”
Reading the paper these days, it’s hard for me to believe He hasn’t said that very thing to America, but America, given up to her own ways, doesn’t get the message. Because when God gives up on a person, or a nation, they don’t get a pink slip.
A Silent Sentence
Judgment can begin in silence, an invisible and terrible decision to withdraw, allowing people their own course. Clueless that they’ve been “given up”, they may go on functioning like Samson, living in rebellion, continuing to presume upon divine protection, and wholly unaware that both the Lord and His favor have departed. (Judges 16:20)
For perspective’s sake let’s remember the United States is not, and never has been, the Church. So calling us a “Christian nation” never squared with me, because not everyone in the country is saved, we’ve never been governed by pastors and elders, and thankfully, we’re not a theocracy. Besides which, no one, no matter how patriotic, will deny our historic offenses like slavery, abortion, or segregation, nor our countless lessor but still serious mistakes. So while we’ve been Christian influenced, the “Christian nation” label doesn’t work for me.
Yet the historic influence of Christianity over America’s formation and, until recently, its policies, is undeniable. For that reason, God has blessed America, because when individuals or nations acknowledge Him, and commit themselves to many of His principles, they’ll prosper. They’ll be blessed.
Having been so blessed, if they’re foolish enough to reject what made them great, what else can they expect but judgment? Not the fire-from-heaven sort, but the “have it your way” sort, which is more subtle than flames, but in the end, just
That’s why, puzzled as I am by a lot of current events, I’m also thinking to myself, “Well, what did you expect?” A country that’s been slaughtering unborn children for nearly fifty years, while slaughtering basic and obvious definitions of marriage and gender, cannot expect a bright future.
Some say all of this will bring down judgment, but I’d say it’s the evidence, not the cause. The wickedness we practice tells me not that God will judge, but that He already has.
Being neither prophet nor fortune teller, I could be completely off base here. So maybe I’m despairing when I should be hoping because, after all, weren’t Mary and Martha already mourning their dead brother when Jesus showed up to raise what was already dead and entombed? (John 11:17-25) There could be a similar resurrection waiting for this once great nation, making me a premature alarmist. Here’s hoping.
Upon THIS Rock, Not the Plymouth One
But whether it’s over for America, or if judgment is still on hold, one thing is certain: God never gives up on His church. The gates of hell won’t prevail against Her (Matthew 16:18) and the principles He set in place to govern and guide her are effective and unchanging. Nations do rise and fall, but it will never be over for the Body of Christ, which has our eternal allegiance and everlasting membership.
That’s where my thinking has been shifting lately. I can joyfully be part of what He wants to do with and in His church, while still loving my neighbor and being a good citizen.
Which means doing my part, contributing as God gives me ability, honoring the authorities and the system I work within, obeying even when it’s inconvenient, attempting to change it when I can, and defying it only when conscience demands me to.
There’s joy in that, and I don’t say that glibly. Watching what was great decay from within, and become entirely more vulnerable as a result, is hard. But joy can still
Some Christian spouses learn this, watching their own marital decay. Sometimes a husband, for example, gives himself permission to routinely get drunk, become lazy and backslidden, use drugs, or essentially become a full-scale jerk. His wife prays, pleads, and hangs in there, hoping the man she once knew will appear again, and that she can again rejoice in the marriage she so enjoyed.
Yet he may harden his heart to the point her pleadings mean nothing, and though she continues praying for him, she also accepts the fact he’s chosen his path and, barring a miracle, won’t change. She begins a new way of finding joy, not in the marriage itself, but in faithfully continuing to do her part, please God, serve her family as best she can, and find other avenues like good friendship or volunteer work to fill the void her husband refuses to see.
Weeping in Hope
I think many of us are beginning to feel the same way about our nation. We’ve watched –sometimes horrified; sometimes unaware of the seriousness – while it slid into decades of decay. The American people largely, though not completely, have given themselves permission to be led by the ungodly, to indulge in ungodliness, and to forget the God they used to identify themselves in a pledge to be under.
Some of us, after years of pleading, striving, and hoping, are finally accepting the fact the U.S. has chosen its path and, barring a miracle, won’t change. So we begin finding joy by faithfully continuing to do our part, please God, serve our nation and our neighbors as best we can, and comfort ourselves in remembering our citizenship has always been in heaven. Maybe now that means more to us than ever; maybe that’s one of the few good things coming out of all this.
None of which tempts me to quit participating, voting, speaking, fighting a good fight, and doing what can be done. But I also feel the hope of someone glimpsing afresh at the eternal promises, while watching, in disgust, the temporal downward slide of something I grew up singing about, and now, grown and aging by the moment, I lament.
But when it comes to the company I’m in, I could do worse. I remember reading Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography The Hiding Place forty years ago, and one passage in particular stands out today.
Just before the Germans invaded her country, Corrie, her sister, and their father listened to a Dutch leader on the radio, who promised that Holland’s neutrality would be respected, and that the war wouldn’t affect Dutch citizens. He was angry at the false promise being made, then stamped out his cigar and turned to his daughters and said:
“Oh my dears, I am sorry for the Dutchmen who don’t know the power of God. Because we will be beaten. But He will not.”