Sunday, November 6, 2011

If America is a Christian nation, we’re sure not acting like it

There is a lot of negativity these days surrounding government assistance programs; so-called “entitlement” programs like Social Security, Welfare, Medicaid and Medicare. Many people find themselves “benefitting” from such programs because of mistakes they have made—like poor financial or social choices.  Throughout the media, from the talking heads to the political pundits, I hear complaints that taxing the wealthy, asking them to pay their “fair share” to help fund these programs is essentially punishing the wealthy for their success.   Beyond penalizing these “job creators” for their achievement, taxing them to fund “entitlement” programs essentially is an enablement to those receiving those benefits. 

The people I hear complaining are also the ones who like to say that America is a “Christian nation,” or at least that America was founded on “Judeo-Christian values.”  Let’s go with that.  What then are three core values of Christianity?  I would say grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Since the Bible is considered the foundational document for Christianity, we should look at what this sacred book has to say about these values and perhaps more importantly, what the Bible describes about God and God’s relation to these values of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

So what does the Bible say about God’s grace? It’s overflowing.  How about God’s forgiveness? Never ending.  And what about God’s mercy? Always available.  What did Jesus teach us about forgiveness?  Forgive 70 x 7; forgiveness is to be a continuing, never ending practice of Christians.    

Just because the Bible describes a way of living, just because God demonstrates these values to us every day, “Your mercies are new every morning,” doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to practice those same values ourselves.  Far from easy, it’s extremely difficult; giving someone second, third, even fourth chances is hard, very hard.  I get that sometimes we want people to face the negative repercussions of their poor decisions they have made—that’s human.   Guess what’s not human? God.  Somehow God is able to repeatedly forgive us for our faults. Somehow God’s grace is enough. Somehow God can handle not giving us what we “deserve.” God’s mercy is incomprehensible. 

These things are all understood in the context of individual human beings, but if you hold to these theological positions and you understand America to be founded as a Christian nation or at least on Judeo/Christian values, shouldn’t that mean a commitment by America on a political/governmental level to practice these same values?  Therefore, wouldn’t “returning to the values our nation was founded on” mean a return to the Godly, Christian values of grace, mercy, and forgiveness? If America was founded as such, America as a nation—in the social, political, and governmental decisions it makes should be acting in ways to promote the values of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

So when I heard all the negativity regarding government assistance programs, regarding second chances—even giving people what they may or may not deserve—what comes through is unwillingness by America to practice these values of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

If God is willing to forgive us our sins, show us mercy by saving us from hell, and be magnificently gracious by giving us an eternity in heaven, shouldn’t we as Christians and as citizens of this “Christian” nation be more than willing to demonstrate to others these same values?  Yes, people have issues, many of their own making, but lest we say “they don’t deserve it,” perhaps we should remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

If you believe these things to be true

If you believe this nation to be a Christian nation

We should forgive, we should show mercy, and we should be gracious as a nation, even to those who “don’t deserve it.”  For if not, we simply have to admit we as Americans simply are not acting that Christian.

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