Edmund Burke, the 18th Century Irish statesman, once said, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” These days, America unfortunately is looking less and less lovely in the eyes of Christians.
We are witnessing a cultural freefall unlike any time period in our nation’s history. The meaning of marriage has been redefined in society, abortion-inducing drugs become ever-more available over the pharmacy counter, and the pornography epidemic expands—each of these serve as sad examples of America’s vices.
Because of these factors, it was with a heavy heart that many observed Independence Day for our country, which many of us hardly recognize anymore. Indeed it was without the same fervor that many churches patriotically celebrated the Fourth of July this year.
We wonder, what is to come of us—of our beloved country—as a result of this cultural collapse? We love our country no less, but many have taken a tone of lament similar to that of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who saw Israel taken captive by a foreign enemy. No, America was not carried off by a foreign enemy, yet some say Christians are entering a time of cultural exile within our own land.
If it’s true, that the “moral majority” has given way to the moral minority (not that any of us is truly moral), how should we then live? Christian giants like Francis Shaeffer wrestled with this same question as far back as the 1970s, as did the late Chuck Colson even more recently.
Prior to his passing, Colson wrote a review of the popular book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, in which author James Davison Hunter argues Christians are called only to have a “faithful presence” in society.
As the country turns further away from Christian beliefs, it is an increasing temptation to try this path of “lifestyle-only evangelism.” While he agreed with Hunter on many points, Colson felt this strategy was lacking. Pointing to greats like William Wilberforce, a Christian who led the end of slavery in England, Colson believed that God calls Christians to “bring their faith to bear in all aspects of life.”
For Shaeffer and Colson, we are not allowed to shrink back. Our Christian convictions should be shown and told at every point of life. We must not be tempted to use only words or only actions to display the Gospel, but we must employ a combined approach.
That does not necessarily mean Christians will become a majority again. Jeremiah knew Israel’s captivity would not be short. God’s people would be held for some 70 years. It could likewise be that Christians in America are permanently a minority (though there is reason to believe God’s Kingdom is expanding in other parts of the globe).
If so, it is most important to ponder the counsel Jeremiah gave, which was decidedly optimistic and positive.
“This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper’” (Jer. 29:4-7).
A few verses later comes the famous promise, “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).
God knew something the captives did not know. Namely, that they had a future and a hope. In following Jeremiah’s prescribed instructions—building, planting, marrying, procreating (all of which are long-term endeavors)—the people of God could cling to the promises when their eyes told them to do otherwise.
Whether America’s best days are behind or before us, God only knows. Yet we do know He still has a future for His people, which should give us a resolute hope in the face of any cultural shifts.