When we look back I dare say that these past weeks will go down in the history books as a pivotal time in American history. Nine innocents were gunned down by a racist as they gathered to study the bible. Prison guards aided the escape of two murders. Terrorist carried out three simultaneous attacks on our allies in three countries. And the Supreme Court took the stunning and breathtaking step of redefining marriage.
Historic? To say the very least. Taken individually, any of these events has far reaching consequences, but together they seem to tell of a tragic and even terrifying trend. We are becoming a nation that has elevated the self above family, above community, above the law, and most alarming we have elevated self above God.
None of the recent events we have witnessed, not the landmark court decision, nor the rogue prison guards, nor the racist murders just happened. Each of them, and all of them, are the fruit of a culture that has time and time again planted itself outside of obedience to God. Our country is not going to hell in a hand basket because of one ruling, or one city in chaos, or one racist. The harvest of evil we are seeing now, I believe, is a result of the careful and intentional cultivation of a society of self-reliance. The more we have discovered that we can do ourselves, the more we shun all semblance of dependence on God.
We have taken the myth that “God helps those who help them selves” and twisted even further into “Those who help themselves become their own god.” We have declared our independence from God, been liberated from all restraints and become a society that bows the knee only to self. Yet self is a demanding master who will be denied nothing in the pursuit of happiness. Oh my friends, in the quest for self-gratification we have created a monster that is the new American culture. I just want to shake my head and say, “All is lost. . . all is lost.”
And then I witness something glorious! I see a counter-culture pushing to the surface in the midst of a garden of depravity. In Charleston, with blood still on the floor of the sacred Bible study room of the historic Emanuel AME Church, the family of those nine martyred souls declared, “We have no room for hate. We forgive you.”
Into our crumbling culture of self-will and rebellion those words echoed to the very halls of the White House and were lauded by the highest secular authority in our land. That church created its own culture, a different culture, a God-centered culture that has surrender the right to hate to the higher purposes of God. They wrenched their loss back from the realm of black and white, racism and hate, and put it in the hands of Christ.
In witnessing that, I know all is not lost – not unless the church looses its way. That’s how we got in this circumstance to begin with. The church was wooed by the culture of self and we stepped back to protect the Christian self from the world’s decay, and we left a vacuum. Now is our moment to find our way back out of the fog of this lost culture, out of our holy huddles, to reestablish a living breathing vibrant culture of Christ – our own counter-culture revolution.
Instead of focusing on how ineffective we are at changing the tide of depravity and selfishness that has become America, we can counter it by loving – beginning with our neighbor. It might not matter in the White House, but it will matter to that neighbor in need. Instead of ranting diatribes at anyone who will listen because the Supreme Court had the audacity to recreate what God himself created, I can listen to those who applaud the decision - not because I approve, but because Christ listened to the heart of sinners so he could meet them in their need.
Christ met rebellion and sin and a culture of oppression with self-sacrifice, with love, with wisdom, with truth, with relationships, and with generosity. We might lament that such a strategy just won’t work in this 21st century, but then, if we’re honest, most of us have not tried. Instead, our own self cries out for justice against those who mock God; but didn’t we receive grace when we were the mockers - grace that led us to salvation? Such grace God is still offering to sinners.
I am offended by this culture and I am deeply grieved; but my outrage and my grief produce nothing that will change this culture unless they inspire me to create a counter-culture fueled by prayer and recognizable by love and service and respect and engagement. A culture isn’t just something we live in; it is something we create in my own small realm of influence. God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 How can they repent and be saved if they have not heard? How can they hear if we do not tell them? How can we tell them if we refuse to know them? How can we know them unless we are willing to love them? How can we love them unless Christ loves them through us?
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Ephesians 5:2
Walk in love? Toward all? Yes, it runs counter to the culture. It runs counter to my own nature! But so does forgiving the murderer of those you love. That is what makes it so powerful! Yes, it runs counter to the culture. It runs counter to my own nature! But so does forgiving the murderer of those you love. That is what makes it so powerful!
Alone, my counter-culture revolution will have only a small impact, but an impact nonetheless. Image, though, if every American who claims to be a follower of Christ, followed Christ’s example to counter the culture, not with outraged signs and Facebook posts and snarky tweets, but with living and loving as He did. I have faith that America would change; but even if it doesn’t, it will change the culture we move in – and it will change us. It is time for a new American revolution!