Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles and appoint judges who would rule in favor of the Christian agenda.

I am not saying promoting Christian principles is a bad thing.  As a Christian who has been a Christ follower all my life, I long to see Christian principles be a strong part of the fabric of our nation.  I truly believe the Bible’s statement that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But my fear then – and my fear now – is that we are looking to a man and/or a political party to promote the Christian faith rather than looking to God for that.

As Christians we can work to see “righteous” laws that agree with God’s Word are made by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the courts.  Nothing wrong with that.

But laws do not make a person or a nation righteous.

God’s Word and the whole idea of our Christian faith speaks against that.

Look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  Led by Moses out of Egypt bondage, God Himself gave them laws.  If you read the Old Testament you see how many times they failed to follow those laws.  Why?  Because as God’s Word says “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

The story of the Christian faith is that laws did not work.  They could control the behavior of man to a point, but in the end, they always failed.  Man always found a way to ignore and/or disobey the law.  The nation of Israel wandered further and further away from the law because the law did not change their hearts.

So we can pass laws that make what we believe is sin against the law.  We can even persecute those who break those laws and send them to prison.  But how has that make our nation a Christian nation?  Granted it would mean that we as Christians might feel safer in a nation where everybody had to agree with us or go to jail.  We as Christians might enjoy a great safe and comfortable life.

But how would that change the hearts of the people?  How would that truly make us “all” Christians?

Jesus spoke about the importance of a change in our hearts, not just our behavior in that famous passage we call the “Sermon on the Mount”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

So – we can make laws against murder (not saying we should not do so) but we cannot change the hearts of people who harbor anger in their heart.  And sadly, I have seen on numerous Facebook posts where Christians have been so guilty of disobeying Jesus’ instruction as they begin to call each other “fools” when they disagree on an issue.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly Jesus was calling us to a higher standard than just setting up a set of laws for all to obey.  He was calling us to a change in heart.

Only God can change a heart.  All the “righteous” laws in the world, even if enforced by our courts, cannot change the heart of men and women.

My fear is that instead of trying to share God’s love and God’s truth to our neighbors, instead of reaching out to those who were planning an abortion, who were taking illegal drugs, who were living a lifestyle we felt was wrong, we looked to a man/a political party to pass laws that would stop them from that lifestyle or punish them for it.

What if we went to that woman contemplating abortion and asked what we could do to help her keep the child?  Could we pay her medical bills?  Could we help her find a good family to adopt the baby?  Could we help her gain skills to get a better job?  And, if in the end, we could not change her mind, could we show her love and compassion as we pray to God to change her heart and mind?

And what about Jesus’s statement:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

I am thankful that I have lived my life in a nation where many Christian beliefs have guided our country – and I’m all for promoting those principles.  But we must never think if we force people to live by our Christian standards through fear of persecution or punishment by the courts, we are making our nation a righteous nation.

No law – no matter how good – can change the heart.  That is the whole point of our Christian faith.

Just a closing thought:  what if we spend as much time praying – seeking God – sharing His love to those we do not agree with – as we spend arguing, debating and even attacking those who are opposed to our Christian standards – would that make a real difference?

Do I Reflect Being With Jesus?

Every Sunday I meet after church with a small group to study the Bible and right now we have started walking through the book of Acts.

One story in chapter 4 of that book really makes me stop and examine my own Christian witness.

Peter and John had been brought before the religious leaders who were disturbed at the message they were sharing with the people.  A message that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A message of hope for salvation in those who believed their report.

After careful questioning they ordered them to never speak or teach again in the name of Jesus.  They answered that “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. “

History tells us that they did not stop but later it is reported that in Thessalonica it was said of the followers of Jesus “they have turned the world upside down.”

What caught my eye in this passage of scripture is the religious leaders description of Peter and John.  They were amazed at the boldness of these ordinary men who had no special training in theology.  They recognized these two as men who had “been with Jesus.”

How was it these ordinary fishermen became bold and successful messengers of the Good News that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that belief in Him led to salvation?

They had spent time with Jesus.

Examination of my own life makes me question.

Does my witness to the goodness of Jesus reflect that I have spent time with Him?

My language, my attitude, my compassion, my awareness of the needs of others, how I spent my time and my money – would people say of me that “she has been with Jesus”?

That is my prayer today.

Heavenly Father, help me to spend time with you – in Your Word, in Your house, with fellow believers, in quiet times of worship.  Help me turn off the television, the internet, stop fussing about having a perfect house.  Keep me from the things that would distract me from time with you.  Then, help live in practice of what I profess to believe.  Help me treat others so that they will know I have been with You.

 

 

 

 

The Chautauqua Movement is Alive and Well Today

After a quick drive through Bay View Michigan where we discovered beautiful Victorian houses, we learned this community was part of the Chautauqua movement from the late 1800’s.  Although the movement slowly died out in the 1920’s this community has remained active from its founding in 1875.

Always interested in our country’s history I have done some research since coming home on the Chautauqua movement.

I found the word is an Iroquois word and means ““a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.”   This name apparently was given to the movement because the first such meeting took place near Chautauqua Lake in New York where the word described the shape of the lake.

Started by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller in a Methodist camp meeting site, it was used as a summer school for Sunday School teachers.  Although it started in this religious setting, it was more than just religious teaching.

It quickly spread throughout the country and attracted families to enjoy educators, preachers, musicians, orchestras while also enjoying camping and other outdoor summer activities.

Politicians also enjoyed speaking at these gatherings.  The large crowds that attended these summer programs gave them a way to get their message out (before the days of television, Facebook and cable news).  One of the most famous of those politicians was William Jennings Bryan.  A Democrat who ran for president three times, Bryan was very adamant about the importance of making education available to all.  He found the Chautauqua Movement an excellent way to make educational, religious and cultural programs open to all.

Theodore Roosevelt called it “the most American thing in America.”

The movement began to die out as television and other modern entertainment venues grew in popularity.  However, today it is experiencing a come back.  The idea of lifelong learning has gained importance again and the desire for cultural experiences is returning.  There are existing Chautauqua communities throughout the USA.

The original Chautauqua is now a 750-acre education center in New York State.  During the nine-week summer season at the Chautauqua Institution, over 7,500 persons enjoy the all the programs which include the four pillars of the movement:  religion, recreation, arts and education.  Courses are offered in art, dance, theater, writing among many other psecial interests.

The one we found in Bay View is definitely one I want to visit next summer.  In addition to the beautiful homes and the programs they are offering, I look forward to enjoying the  sunsets on beautiful Little Traverse Bay just across the street.

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If you do not live near Michigan, check the map to find one of the many Chautauqua facilities and check it out.

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