"I was." No, that isn't a misquote of the famous God "I Am" words. I'm talking about me. I'll explain the train of thought that took me to this post . . .
In my reading through the Bible I just finished Jeremiah and began Lamentations. I see so strongly the effect on a nation of turning from God, and the effect when God turns from a nation. I found myself in an internal back and forth that is too familiar to me, "God, have mercy on our nation. But if He does, then everyone will continue in their arrogant and successful life just as they are and will never come to Him. They need to be woken up. But, even 9/11 didn't do that. It only lasted for a bit." On and on that dialogue goes in me, back and forth. If God blesses this nation then everyone continues on just as they are, arrogantly assuming they or a nation are the source of their blessing. But even a true disaster only seems to send people running to God for a short time, until their lives are "blessed" again. I know, in my heart, that what our nation needs is for individuals in it to encounter the Holy Spirit and turn to Jesus. We will only truly change as a nation when the individuals in us change.
As I was thinking about our nation and its current condition I felt the familiar anger rise up. And then, suddenly, it hit me in a very powerful way. I was everything I am angered about in our nation today! I was intellectually proud, and I felt I was the one who could plot my life and make it a success. I was pro people being able to do what they wanted and not having other people tell them what to do—I remember arguing round and round with Mary Ann that prostitution should be legal because it was "their choice." I was pro abortion—not seeing a baby in the womb, but seeing only a women's body and others trying to tell her what to do with it (my perception). I thought I was a moral relativist, believing what was right for some was right for them, but it didn't mean it was right for others—that there was no absolute right and wrong across cultures. (In fact, a professor at West Point confronted me on my stand and it was a wake up moment for me. I write a lot about moral relativism in this blog, but I specifically mention that incident with my professor here, here, and here.) I mocked the Bible, God, and Christians (I flung profanity at a God I claimed I didn't believe in), and I believed in evolution and an old earth. On and on I could go, but I think the point is made. Everything that angers me today . . . I was.
And, as I look back, I realize that no law in the world could have changed me. In fact it would have angered me even more to have someone "shove" their beliefs onto my life in law (I am not arguing that laws shouldn't exist that reflect God's heart, just saying how it wouldn't have changed my heart, even if it forced my compliance). While laws have value—they regulate a society, they protect unborn and other defenseless, they model a moral code to youth—ultimately I don't believe they change a heart, and that is the only thing that changed me. God having mercy on me, an arrogant and blasphemous atheist, put Mary Ann and others into my life and the Holy Spirit drew me to Him and He changed me, from the inside. And that is, I believe, the only hope for our nation in the end—a personal encounter with Jesus by the ones who make up this nation. And then allowing Him to change our hearts into alignment with His. (Even God's Law wasn't an end in itself, it was a tutor or schoolmaster to reveal sin and point us to Jesus.)
I recognize that even among Christians not all agree on everything, but without that at least as a starting point I don't think a change is possible for us. He makes us new creations. He writes His law on our hearts. He teaches us truth. And that brings up then the question, what is my role in drawing people in this nation to Jesus, the ultimate changer of hearts? Because until He came into my heart and changed me, everything that bothers and grieves me today in others in this nation . . . I was.