critical—adj.: 1. of or forming a crisis or turning point; decisive; 2. tending to find fault; censorious; 3. dangerous or risky; causing anxiety; 4. of critics or criticism; 5. of the crisis of a disease
Everywhere you turn, you hear it being said, in one way or another, that we are in dangerous times and many people are very anxious. So much is being said against “America”, against government, against government officials, and about the “moral decline of America”, about the lack of moral fiber in elected officials, about the absence of consistent standards among church leaders that many people are living in fear.
The sad thing about all these “things being said” is that they are general statements which allow the individual making the comment to avoid personal responsibility for the condition being spoken about and, in lamenting and crying aloud, to encourage others to avoid that responsibility as well while they focus on what “others” are doing that is so wrong.
While it is always true that we can see flaws in systems and other people, those flaws exist because of choices made by individuals. Individuals who chose to walk a certain path, individuals who were drawn to certain actions by their priorities, individuals who compromised ever so slightly, individuals who have impacted a nation over a period of time—but, many of those who have had a strong impact are not well-known nor were they politicians or religious leaders—individuals who made a choice on the road of life that led them to be less than God would have had them to be and to cause others around them to be less than God would have had them be—mothers and fathers who produced the individuals and the attitudes living in America today.
The great deceit is that it is not you and I, but the “government”, or “elected officials”, or “a fallen church leader” who has corrupted the environment. Convincing us that it is “others” keeps us from looking too closely at ourselves, from examining too closely our individual lives and choices. It succeeds in transferring responsibility (therefore, the need to make change) from my shoulders to some “others” over whom I have no control and that makes me NOT responsible. It is “their fault” and I must fight against them and their agenda in order to restore “perfection”.
However, there is an important consideration we are overlooking: God deals with individuals and requires accountability from individuals!
Check it out: God’s prophets in the Old Testament came proclaiming the need for individuals to repent so that the nation could be saved from the sure consequences that would come (2 Chronicles 7:13-15, one example of many). God has always held individuals responsible for the state of the nation and indicated judgement of a nation would come based on the behavior of the people (individuals).
Also, it is obvious in scripture that we are to be in subjection to the government, i.e., Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted. . .”. And, in Daniel 2:20-21, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them.”
Jesus came to earth during a time of hard oppression for the Jewish people. Rome was not an easy taskmaster and there were many zealots who worked for the destruction of that government. Yet, Jesus did not spend His time criticizing Rome nor did He encourage others to be disobedient to the laws of the land. Not once can I find that Jesus recommended that the people rise up and “fix the government” that was blatantly oppressive and evil. He did, however, criticize the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day) for their lack of spiritual depth and that, I believe, is what He would criticize us for today. What we need to “fix” is us—and this can only happen when we allow God to conform us to the image of His Son, Christ Jesus (Romans 8:29). It can only happen when our focus becomes Jesus and our energies are directed toward knowing God and His word: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). I believe this occurs when we follow the admonition in Hebrews 12:2— ”fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”. Focus on Jesus, who during His life on earth instructed people to focus on God and His kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.
So our battle is not with “others” or the “government”, it is with ourselves. It is me, it is you! Our fingers should not point any further than our own standards, behavior and choices. Examine, if you dare, your own “entertainment”: does it cause you to be a better person, does it lead you to think of God or His ways, does it help mold you into the image of Christ Jesus, would you be comfortable if Jesus were sitting next to you? If not, why are you participating in it? Have you been deceived into believing that there are areas of your life in which God is not interested? Have you been blinded by the god of this world? (Check out the parable of the sower for some valuable insights.)
If you thought you would not get caught— would you cheat
[= steal] on your income tax? (justification is easy . . . the government has plenty of money and I work hard for what I earn and anyway they don’t use it the way it should be used); would you take merchandise home from a store without paying for it? (you know, the scanner fails to accurately scan an item and you just don’t mention it; rationalization follows . . . after all, I’ve bought plenty in there and they make a profit on the other stuff; this is just my discount); of course, if an “overcharge” occurs, it must be corrected and we are quick to point it out (talk about double standard)!
What choices have you made that show you to be a “Christian”—a follower of Christ? Is the standard you require of others at work in your life? Check out Romans 2:21-24, “you who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’”
It is my belief that the greatest enemy of reform and lasting change is the same enemy that was identified in the account of the first fall of man from perfection—satan, the father of lies, the great deceiver. It is he who assists us in our headlong plunge into destruction. It is he who offers us thoughts to help justify what we do and condemn what “others” do—he is the “accuser of the brethren” and he is constantly looking for recruits! “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” (Romans 14:4)
Paul said it very clearly in Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. That doesn’t leave room for most of what is being said today. Another clear admonition by Paul is in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It doesn’t seem to me that we are doing very much “building up” with our conversation.
What kind of an influence are the Christians of America exerting that would cause others to “put on the mind of Christ”? Where are the energies of Christians directed?
Are we “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” so that God’s purposes will be served or are we determined to walk according to our own will and what we have decided is best? Are we shining a light in the darkness, are we allowing God’s love to flow through us?
So, America may indeed be in a “critical phase”, dangerous or risky; but, if that is true, it is because you and I are in a “critical phase”, tending to find fault constantly. We have assumed the position of “accusers” when we should be assuming the position of falling on our faces before God and humbly asking for His wisdom to guide our lives.
Time spent in God’s word and
in His presence will result in changed hearts in individuals and and that is what will result in
a changed America!
“It is time for judgment
to begin with
the family of God . . .”
I Peter 4:17
—thoughts written in 1996—by the grace of God ~ October 1996