A Strong but Secondary Love

The Sermon for Sunday, July 4, is “Covenant with Freedom,” which will draw primarily from 2 Samuel 5:1-5. It will be viewable online.

Today’s Bible passage:

Zechariah 14:9 (NRSV): And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one.


By Chuck Griffin

If your nation functions as nations should, love of nation can be a good thing. Christians know there are degrees of love, however, and love of nation has to be kept in perspective.

Those of us blessed to live in the United States and similarly free countries have much to love. We live in nations with open intellectual doors. We are free to go through them, explore the ideas we find inside, and convert those notions we judge best into the lifestyles that suit us.

Freedom for citizens of such nations should be limited only at the point where people’s choices clearly impede the rights of others. I’m talking about genuine interference, of course, not the thin-skinned, “I’ve been triggered” movement playing out now.

And yes, Christians should be the strongest supporters of such a system. Many of our democratic notions were born out of the persecution minority Christian groups faced under state-sanctioned religion. Christians in rigid, authoritarian nations still crave the kind of freedom that rapidly evolved in the 18th century.

As followers of Christ, we also keep a bigger picture in mind as we enjoy these freedoms. Something better lies ahead; this truth is at the core of how we live and what we preach and teach to others.

As we freely choose Christ as Savior, we ready ourselves for an eternal, uncorrupted kingdom, a place where God’s light and love illuminate every moment and every relationship. This kingdom is where our most important citizenship resides.

Once there, I have no doubt we will be thankful for the people who made it possible for us to freely choose eternal life. I suspect we also will be astonished at how powerfully God’s grace penetrated even the darkest, most authoritarian regimes, giving people hope.

Lord, thank you for the gift of freedom. May it continue to be guarded and used well in free nations, and extended to those needing relief. Amen.

Start Right

Psalm 86:8-13 (NRSV)
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and bow down before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

When life seems complicated, it is good to lift up a simple prayer. If the news is any indicator, this week could prove to be complicated, so let’s prayerfully turn our eyes toward our wisest guide, as revealed in Psalm 86.

There is none like God. How can anything created be like the one who creates? At best, we can hope to be a reflection of God, an image pointing toward what is holy.

And what is holy will be revealed in full. Despite the turmoil, the striving, and the evil within the nations of the world, all people will one day conform to God’s will. It simply is part of God’s plan.

The greatest and most wondrous thing God has done is to give sinful beings a path home to their creator. We now understand that this reconciliation occurs through Jesus Christ, God Among Us.

In a great, mysterious act of love, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the burden of our sins so we do not have to do so. Simply through our belief in this act, we are restored, made worthy of eternal life in God’s presence.

Teach us, O Lord; help us to put aside what is not of you and live every moment of our lives for you. As we better recognize the incredible gifts you have given us, may we be a people filled with thankfulness, and may you be glorified in all we do.

Lord, carry us through this week and beyond; hear our prayer. Amen.

Fate of a Nation

Job 12:23-25 (NRSV)

He makes nations great, then destroys them;
    he enlarges nations, then leads them away.
He strips understanding from the leaders of the earth,
    and makes them wander in a pathless waste.
They grope in the dark without light;
    he makes them stagger like a drunkard.

Having watched the news yesterday, all I can do is offer a lament and a prayer for this morning.

My lament is this:

Like Job, I believe God takes a very active hand in what happens to the nations of this earth. The world remains a broken, confusing place, and we can find God inscrutable at times. It is, however, better for a nation to be aligned with God than indifferent to God or against God. A nation made up of people seeking God’s will should, for the most part, experience blessings and peace.

We find ourselves far from feeling blessed or at peace. That alone should tell us something is wrong with our national relationship with God. Not all Americans are Christian, and being Christian is not a requirement to be an American. But enough of us call ourselves Christian that our beliefs should be having more of an impact on national events.

Deliberate efforts to manipulate people with misinformation have triggered anger and fear in a significant part of the population, driving yesterday’s events. Such tactics do not align with Jesus Christ’s teachings or with thoughtful Christianity, where truth and a desire for peace should reign.

Let’s never forget Jesus’ warnings regarding the danger of acting in anger, or his repeated post-resurrection statement, “Fear not.” What have we to fear, knowing Christ has died for us, knowing his power is within us?

I am convinced that current events are a result of declining Christian evangelism, combined with a lack of discipleship and spiritual depth in the American church. Too many of us are failing to look in our Bibles, absorb what we find and then apply those truths in daily life.

That’s my lament. I root my prayer in the light that has come into the world, a light to overcome the darkness and keep us from staggering through history like drunkards.

Lord Jesus Christ, speak to the hearts of all people so a desire for peace and righteousness fills us and overwhelms us as a nation. Give special power and understanding to the people who make up your church. Let us be the first and best examples of what it means to follow you. Amen.