Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Should God Be Part of Our Laws?

"God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will." Lyndon B Johnson

"...the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." John F Kennedy

"The way is plain, peaceful and generous...if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." Abraham Lincoln

"With God's help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us." Ronald Reagan

Continuing his two part series, "God and Country", Andy Stanley reminds us that sometimes when things surface nationally which intersect with things we find in scripture, people that do what he does (minister) have to say something in response. The question Andy poses is, "Where is God in the national conscience?" Every nation has a conscience. As individuals, our accountability to God speaks our conscience, but who or what speaks to our national conscience if not God?

Just a few weeks ago, we saw a great example of our national conscience. The insurance giant, AIG, received money from the government to bail themselves out of a financial meltdown and then it was made known that the high level executives were still going to be receiving enormous bonuses!! Obama, in sharp response, said something very interesting. He essentially said, "the executives that receive those large bonuses ought to give the money back." But it was an "ought to" and the public seemed to come together and agree. But what was behind the "ought to"? Where does the moral conscience come from; the President?

We are a nation that continues to appeal to something that guides us, but what is it? Last week, Andy pointed out that clearly, the national conversation involving God has fallen out of favor. The reason that it isn't cool or politically correct to mention God on the national stage is not necessarily because it's not fair or because it's not comfortable nor is it because we've intellectually moved past God. The primary reason God has been pushed out is because of our own wealth and affluence.

In Proverbs, we see that affluence and humility are not good mixes. The more stuff we have, the more we tend to give ourselves credit, the less humble we are and the more we push out God.
"Give me neither poverty nor riches, but only my daily bread." We have far more than we need as a nation. Increasingly, as a nation, we continue asking "Who is God?" We've become less dependent on Him, more arrogant because of "our own achievements" and hence, not in need of God. The reason we have moved God out is because we have been so incredibly blessed by Him!

In Deuteronomy 8:6, Moses is about to lead the former Israelite slaves into the Promised Land, but before they enter, Moses wants to remind the people there's two things they have to remember;

1) There's law
2) There's accountability to God

Our forefathers stated that we would be a nation not of a king, but a nation in awe of God. Moses, as the leader of Israelite's Exodus, warned the people as they reached the Promised Land. He implored them, that when they were blessed, not to forget the Lord God. Moses knew that prosperity and humility don't coincide very well. He warned that, with prosperity, they would lose their humility and forget their need of a God.

"Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me."

When we think that all we've accomplished is purely with the strength of our own hands, we are at that moment not accountable to anyone. When we are unaccountable, we become more unjust as we look out more and more for our own interests. When a nation loses any sense of divine accountability, it becomes more and mores unjust to its people. Read about history. The natural overflow of unaccountability to God is the exit of justice. Free enterprise, capitalization the American way of life is awesome until we lose God. Then free enterprise becomes an excuse to hoard as the executives of AIG did. At this point, "free enterprise" becomes a symbol of injustice because of the hoarding. The only way to push back on hoarding and injustice is to then impose more laws in an attempt to "legislate morality". But with so many laws that can be broken even because people are unaware that such laws exist, that is when a nation loses its freedom. The American view of life is wonderful until we factor God out. Injustice becomes part of the culture. We forget our God.

"But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."

If any nation in the world believes this, it should be us. It should be America because we have truly been a blessed nation. It is God who designed our nation.

"If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God."

At this point, we might say to ourselves, "Boy, I'm glad we're not a nation that had a covenant with God! I'm glad I'm not an Israelite! Does God really punish destroy a nation because it pushes him out? Read history; it happened time and time again. Israel was eventually destroyed. Perhaps the arrogance that comes along with forgetting the Lord our God doesn't need the overt intentional judgment of God, perhaps it carries an intentional judgement of its own. Maybe a lack of humility has its own implications. Perhaps it's just sowing and reaping. Moses reminded the people that, like nations before them, there would be a price to pay for leaving out God. It was ultimately the people's decision.

The sad thing, but the hopeful thing, is it doesn't have to be this way. We can try to factor God back into the equation. What's more, it hasn't always been this way. Andy loves to read history. Several years ago, Andy read Steven Ambros book, "D-Day". It is a big thick book about all the minutia leading up to D-Day. Ambros outlined the U.S. build-up prior to our invasion of France. It was known that we would attack France, but the secret was when and where we would strike. So on June 6, 1944, when we finally launched the invasion, the news was announced on the radio that the invasion had begun. Instinctively, when our nation became aware of the news, despite our amazing military of 130,000 trained troops and 250,000 other people who had mobilized to support the troops, there wasn't a sense of a national question, "Who is the Lord?" In fact, it was quite the opposite of today. On D-Day President Franklin Roosevelt used the radio to gather everyone and lead them in a national prayer. Can you imagine? The nation, as a nation, prayed, despite our own careful plans, despite our powerful military and despite our advanced technology. We prayed.

Here is (a segments of) that prayer;

"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944

The New York Daily News threw out their other articles and printed the Lord's Prayer on the front of the newspaper. The company Lord and Taylor never opened that day. The president of the company sent all employees home to pray. The New York Stock Exchange paused for two minutes to pray. The editors of the NYT printed we pray for the boys. Special church services took place across the nation. In Columbus, Ohio, the mayor used sirens as a call for the entire city to stop in prayer.

We understood that even with our great military might, we still NEEDED the Lord. Not everyone agreed with the endeavor. There was conflict, but the people came together. A few years later, we witnessed the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King. Our nation came to a point where we understood that principles of scripture should impact the law of our nation. Luther appealed to our national conscience. Even thought it was different and uncomfortable, King was right according to scripture.

On August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke the words of his most famous speech, "Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, (quoting from the Declaration of Independence) "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Then, Martin Luther King closed with a line we all know by heart, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Aren't you glad that after the second World War, a group rose up and said we can't talk about God in politics law and social civil service? These people said all we need is a court, a system and laws. They think we can justly rule ourselves. But, if there had not been a national conscience during the Civil Rights Movement, there very well might not have been a Civil Rights Movement!

The leverage point during these important times in history was our understanding that God created all of us equally. To remove Him is extraordinarily dangerous. We only have to look at history to see where that leads. To do so will leave us looking at ourselves, our arrogance. We think we can become unaccountable to God, but it has consistently led to injustice. It leads to moral ambiguity, which leads to the erosion of civil rights.

This is not the time to lose heart or to be afraid. We should be afraid of our own arrogance which leaves us asking "Who is the Lord?". It leads us to abandon the notion that God blesses.
Maybe it's time to end our prayers with, instead "God Bless America", with a sincere appeal to God to bless our nation despite it's gradual rejection of Him.

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