Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Do you ever worry about our country? In recent weeks we have been horrified by a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Football players protest and our country obviously suffers from deep racial divisions. There is talk of war, possibly nuclear war, with North Korea. We find little or no agreement among our leaders in Washington.
As a child, 60 plus years ago, I remember being truly thankful to have been born in America. America was a land of freedom, including freedom of religion. Our American culture supported me and others as we pursued our Christian faith. Many things have changed. Some changes have been for the better. But, many of the values and principles that made our country a blessing years ago seem to be hard to find today.
Some may be saying, “Pastor Rockey, don’t you remember that old saying? ‘There are two things not to talk about: Religion and politics.’ And here you go talking about BOTH topics.” Nevertheless, I am concerned for America. As a Christian who is also American, I pray for our country regularly.
My experience says that 60 years ago there was more agreement among the people of this country. Most people believed God is Lord of all and Lord of our lives. Even people who didn’t believe in God, respected the majority who did. Biblical faith was a major value used by people to make choices and to face troubles. There seemed to be general agreement on what was right and wrong. Disagreement happened over how to accomplish worthwhile goals. But I don’t remember whole different groups disagreeing about what is right and wrong. Unity of values and thought was a blessing to our country.
However, America now finds itself as a pluralistic society and we find few, if any, areas where all agree. Actually, today’s culture is similar in many ways to the culture in which the early church first existed. The early church grew in the cradle of the Roman Empire. The Roman political system and its leaders of that time were growing more corrupt. All religions were tolerated, to some degree. In that pluralistic society the church grew quickly, even though God’s people believed that there is only one true God, and that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
It is worth noting that the apostles did not seek to overthrow the corrupt government of the Roman Empire. Nor did they seek to impose their beliefs on others by force. Actually, you cannot pass a law that changes hearts. We cannot legislate faith. In fact, laws are best kept when people understand why they exist and therefore want to keep them. Instead of revolution and force, early Christians were called to let their lives and their words witness to God, and then to allow others to consider what Jesus and the Christian faith had to offer.
I believe that Scripture calls American Christians to the same behavior today. The best thing that Christians can do for our country is not to complain about others, but to be serious in living our own faith.
Jesus calls His followers to lives of righteousness. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Christians should seek to live lives of faith and love, worshiping God. This sets Christians apart as different, not part of the decline in faith and integrity we see around us.
Through Paul God calls for our work to be a witness “11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) When God’s children work with honesty, giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, that behavior speaks loudly. “
God calls His people to pray for their country. When the Israelites were carried to exile in Babylon, Jeremiah urged them to pray for the land in which they lived as exiles. “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:7) Even though the Roman emperors were corrupt, Paul called on the church to pray for civil leaders. “1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 1:12). When countries are in turmoil, God calls for prayer.
Of course, if the laws of the land require God’s people to sin against the Lord, then we have to say with Peter and the Apostles, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) But, ultimately, God does not intend for Christians to be a problem for their nation, but to be a blessing, to be the best citizens. God intends for his people to work and pray for the good of everyone. Christians look to God to tell us what is good.
I have children and grandchildren. I don’t just want blessings for America for myself. I want my family to live in a country where they can also experience freedom and grow as Christians. I pray for America and seek, by the way I live, to make it a better place for everybody. I pray that some day my children and grandchildren will also be thankful to live here.
A Child of God, Concerned and Praying for my Country,
P.S. It may be hard to believe but our youngest son, Tim, turned 25 on Monday. Here are pictures from our birthday celebration. https://photos.app.goo.gl/nVomihnN7emqIW4G3
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.