Last week, I mentioned that my friend Ann Smith shared with me a list of 87 questions starting with the words “what if.” I borrowed the idea from Ann this past Sunday and asked a series of my own “what if” questions related to how we are to be both good citizens of our country and bold Christ followers.
First, a few reminders. As followers of Christ, we have a dual citizenship. We are citizens of the United States of America and also fully devoted citizens of the Jesus Kingdom way of life.
Having said that, it is important that we live the Jesus Kingdom way of life as a citizen of the United States of America. Last Sunday, we looked at Jeremiah 29 as we observed the way God’s people handled being in a country against their will, seven hundred miles from home.
Think about that one for a minute. We’ve never known the emotion and pain that goes with being marched across a seven hundred mile desert to live in a place we can’t stand. Honestly, there are times I find myself seven hundred miles from home, right here in the USA, very eager to get back to my home in Edmond, Oklahoma.
There are some communities I visit that I frankly don’t enjoy visiting and sometimes find a bit depressing. I’m always eager to get back to the life I love right here in Edmond. That sounds a bit petty doesn’t it? I’m in the USA, in a state and city of the USA, with the same freedoms, same law, same government, etc., but maybe it is not as pretty as Edmond is to me. Maybe that town doesn’t have the restaurants I like or a comfortable hotel. Maybe I find it depressing because it is struggling economically or the people in the town seem to be very different than me. Nothing against them or their town; I’m just not comfortable there. It isn’t home.
God told the children of Israel to do some things in this strange town where they had been taken that may surprise you. He told them to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, build families, serve this new strange city, seek the peace for this strange new city, and if that isn’t hard enough, He says: “pray for this city…because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Seems like God is saying to them: life will be okay. It will be somewhat similar to your home, just in different surroundings.
This true Bible story really helped me to step back and put things in perspective. Even though there are things I don’t like about our country right now, it is still a place I choose to live, want to live, and desire to improve while I’m here. How should a follower of Christ live in times such as these in our country?
Statistics say we have three hundred twenty-five million people in the USA. In order to not exaggerate anything or draw too many conclusions, I looked up the number of people who identify with denominations such as Pentecostal, Lutheran, Baptist, Nazarene, Methodist, and the Independent Christian Church. The data indicates nearly fifty million people attend these churches in the USA.
So here are my “what if” questions to the citizens of the USA who claim to follow Christ:
What if fifty million Americans decided to love their neighbor like Jesus loves us?
What if fifty million Americans decided to work together to eradicate hunger in their communities?
What if fifty million people decided that no child should be without a family?
What if fifty million people decided they would be quick to forgive and slow to judge?
What if fifty million people rescued every person trapped in the bondage of human trafficking?
What if fifty million people decided today to stop looking at porn, which could mean an end to human trafficking?
It was the church that decided people should learn to read and they started schools. It was the church that decided the sick should be cared for and they built hospitals. It was the church that started the first orphanages to care for abandoned children. It was the church that started food banks to provide food to the hungry.
What happened to the church? Where did it go? When did it lose its focus? When did it decide the government had to change so we could have an impact? When did the church settle for comfort, convenience, and preferences over concern for the community? What if the way we lived matched what we claimed to believe?
And forget about fifty million people. What if fifty thousand people in all fifty states, which totals two and a half million, decided to get back to the basics of the message of Christ? What if two and a half million people across this great nation decided to turn our country upside down without a debate, without an election, without a campaign, without political force, without an agenda?
What if we were clear about what we believe and then had the guts to live it out?
I know this may sound simplistic, unreasonable, perhaps even naïve. But if we had the courage to evaluate just how effective we are these days, it wouldn’t take much to realize we need to change the strategy. The world is watching, and frankly, they are not seeing much that compels them to want to be a part of us.
I love the church when it is doing what Jesus has called us to do. I love people--all people. I love my country. But I love Jesus more than anything or anyone. And just like the Bible says, “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Isn’t it time for people who claim to follow Christ to be once again “compelled by His love” to be what He called us to be?