2 Chronicles 7:14 (CSB)
“And my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
I dislike starting a post with provisos, but I think it’s important for anyone reading this to have the proper context for what follows. I am not a strong believer in end times prophecies, but am willing to consider their validity. My belief is in Christ’s command to always be prepared for his return, and that no one knows exactly when that will be except for God the Father. I am neither a prophet nor the son of the prophet, but I think I’ve learned how to read the times, at least a little. What follows are my own thoughts and not intended to be authoritative in any way, although my hope is that what wisdom is there will be worth your time to consider.
Today is what is known as Inauguration Day, when a new federal administration is sworn into office. We are currently in a contentious period in this country, perhaps the most contentious this country has ever experienced. Many believers have offered up prayers for our nation and its leaders, which is appropriate. We worry, rightly, that this country is in danger of falling under God’s judgment for the many sins which are condoned and even celebrated. There are even some who believe (myself included) that God’s judgment may have already begun. We turn to the verse quoted above, thinking if our country would just return to its “Christian roots” everything will be all right.
I would argue against the contention that we are and always have been a “Christian nation”, which implies we are somehow divinely chosen to be first and foremost among the nations of the world. While we have had a strong Christian influence from the beginning and through most of our existence as a sovereign nation, we have never been what could be called a “Christian nation”. It is, I believe, a small but important distinction.
Its importance can be seen in how we choose to apply the above quoted verse. It is used in the context of a promise that if we as a nation will engage in national repentance we will somehow experience a healing of our nation and a return to our once-perceived greatness. The problem with that reasoning is the context of the verse. God is speaking to Israel, who was a chosen spiritual people and not simply a political entity. It is addressed to the spiritual rebellion of the people, and was a promise of healing for repentance from their sins and rebellion against God. Trying to apply this to America as a political entity is incorrect, because many of its people have never expressed devotion to God. Although Christianity was once a major influence in cultural and political thought it can no longer be said to be the case. Therefore, if this verse is to be applied to anyone, it should correctly apply to the church, whose members can correctly be called the people of God.
The church (generic) has fallen away from its foundations, and as a result has lost much of the influence it once had. Even among nonbelievers there was a measure of respect at one time. No more. As churches have absorbed worldly standards and beliefs, they have become little different from those around them. What Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”, the type that allows for self-satisfied salvation while still pursuing the things of this world, has diluted the message of the church. We have become the Laodicean church of Revelation 3. What influence we may have once had to stem the tide of increasing evil in our nation has been seriously diminished. We have squandered it.
The culture has become increasingly hostile to expressions of Christian faith. Although widespread suppression and persecution has not occurred, there have been incidences, such as burning and defacing of churches, which are indicative of the potential direction in which public opinion will turn if current trends continue. No one who professes to be a Christian should be amazed or surprised at this. Christ himself told us it would happen. As this nation becomes more intolerant of ideas other than those which are “acceptable”, Christianity, which by its very nature is antithetical to worldly beliefs and actions, will fall under harsh opposition by those who perceive it as a threat.
We need to ask ourselves what we would do in such a situation. “Going along to get along” will no longer be an option. It’s not much of a stretch to seriously consider the phrase “faithful until death”. Is your faith in God and Jesus Christ worth dying for? More importantly, is it worth living for? We are supposed to be the light and salt of the earth, the one bulwark against the world literally becoming a hell on earth. The world’s problem is not political, it’s not economics, it’s not inequality of resources or any other material thing. It’s problem is spiritual: we are living in a world dominated by sin, and there is only one solution, which the church has been given to deliver to the rest of the world. If the authorities in this nation become more hostile to Christianity, even to the point of arrest and possibly execution, will you be bold enough to continue to deliver the message of hope and demonstrate it in your own life?
I apologize if I sound like an alarmist. I don’t know what will happen in the future, and hope and pray that we may escape any and all of this for some time. However, Jesus spoke of believers experiencing tribulation as an absolute certainty but promised eternal life with God to those who stood faithful under all circumstances. Since we have no real idea about the future and when Christ is to return, we must be prepared now, and our faith must be absolutely certain and bold in the face of any and all opposition.