What will nation lose if Christian foundations fall?Published 9:42am Friday, June 21, 2013
By the Rev. Nancy Overgaard
Thorne Crest Retirement Community
Several years ago, as I drove from Minnesota to Idaho, I kept noticing signs that read, “This way to a National Treasure!” Often, other signs alongside urged, “Don’t miss out!” The signs pointed to places as the Black Hills, the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. But, as I prepared to preach a summer sermon series on Galatians 5:22-23 at the Little Church in the Pines, I could not help but think that our greatest national treasure is our Christian heritage.
Yet, sadly, it seems to be the one we have most neglected and let fall into disrepute and disrepair. As Ravi Zacharias recently observed in a radio address, in a time when other nations are taking pride in their religions and doing all they can to revive them, Americans seem to be doing the opposite. In his article called, “The Leavers,” (Christianity Today, November 2010) Drew Dyck noted that young adults are abandoning the Christian faith at five to six times the historic rate and are far less likely than former generations to ever return.
But, do they realize what they will miss out on? Do we as a nation understand what we will lose if we let our Christian foundations crumble? I am afraid we do not. Aside from the obvious (salvation, eternal life and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ) in Galatians 5:22-23 the Apostle Paul identified nine precious gems that are directly connected to the Christian faith. Forsake the Christian faith and you forfeit these riches that come with it.
To use another analogy, just as fruit cannot grow apart from a tree, spiritual fruits, as Paul calls them, cannot grow in our lives unless we are connected to Christ (John 15:4). You may know these nine gems as the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. But, have you ever considered their value to you, personally, or their worth to our nation? Four years in a post-communist country and years in ministry persuade me these nine virtues are of priceless worth to individuals as well as nations.
Consider just one gem, joy. Not long ago, I met a young man looking for joy. I had never before heard anyone state so bluntly that he yearned for joy but had no idea where to find it. He had thrown himself into music, his passion, singing and playing guitar, but found it did not bring him joy. He tried friendships and relationships only to become disillusioned. He tried drugs and alcohol. They, too, failed to bring lasting joy. He wondered where else he could look.
Living in a former communist country, I noticed a similar lack of joy, seemingly, on a national scale. Students I worked with, there, derided Americans for their joy. They prided themselves on being able to identify Americans using one simple criterion: they were happy. While doing a semester of study at a Christian college in the United States two of the students encountered a woman who looked decidedly unhappy. Exchanging a look they shared their mutual conclusion. She could not be an American. They were right. She was from a former communist country as were they. What they overlooked was that the Americans they kept encountering at home and abroad were not just Americans. They were Christians. Could there be a connection?
According to the Apostle Paul, there is. The fruit, the direct result, of knowing God and being in right relationship with him, Paul wrote, is joy. He was not alone in saying so. The Psalmist wrote of God, “In your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (16:11). In the Old Testament, where one might least expect it, joy and rejoicing are so closely associated with God, that the writers use 27 different Hebrew words for joy. Often, several appear together in a single passage for emphasis. In both Old and New Testaments joy is inseparably linked with Christ and with his rule. Jesus both taught and prayed that his disciples would be filled, not only with joy, but with fullness of joy (John 15:11, 16:24). Paul wrote that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17).
Notably, the prophets Isaiah (16:10), Jeremiah (48:33), Ezekiel (7:7) and Joel (1:16), all mention that when the people of Israel turned away from God, they lost their joy. Similarly, Paul noticed that when the Galatian Christians turned away from Christ they lost their joy (Galatian 4:15).
I admit that I am not always the most joyful person around. Many things in the world trouble me, deeply. But I can personally attest to the profound joy that comes through knowing Christ, and I know I would not want to miss out on it. Would you? You may still be skeptical. But, supposing there is a connection, would you really want to miss out?
To hear more, tune in to the Pastor’s House Call on KATE radio July 29 through Aug. 2, when I will expand on the priceless worth of each of these gems, not only to individuals, but to nations.