Live the Change Romans 12:9-21
John Adams... (as some of you know, just happens to be my favorite of the Founding Fathers)... declared way back on July 3rd, 1776, that America’s independence should be celebrated “with pomp and parade, with [shows], games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other... from this time forward [and] forever more.”
The very next year, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia (the City of Brotherly Love) commemorated “Independence Day” by launching 13 rockets - or fireworks - into the night sky.
Of course, our “Fourth of July” fireworks and celebrations have changed a little in the years since. In fact, I read where last year alone... as a nation... we spent over $7 billion on our Independence Day celebrations. About a billion dollars of that was spent on food... and about $5 million dollars was spend on the purchase of new flags.
But much of that money was spent by large metropolitan cities... and small cities and communities like our own... to light-up the sky with literally hundreds of thousands of fireworks. In New York City alone, over 60,000 fireworks were launched in a display lasting nearly half an hour.
Of course, as Americans, we have a lot to celebrate, don’t we? Most all of us have been blessed with more... much more... than we need! We all have a roof over our heads, we know where our next meal is coming from, we sleep in the same bed every night, we have more than that one pair of shoes, and we have some spare change lying around somewhere... which means we’re better off than 95% of the people who’ve ever lived. We’re better off than Jesus ever was, no doubt!
We live in a free land that proclaims “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights... rights that cannot be taken away... rights that were given to us - NOT by an earthly king or granted by some form of secular government... but rights that are bestowed by God Himself. Which, by the way, makes God an inseparable part of the fabric of our freedom. George Washington famously said, "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible".
Going back to John Adams, he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He also said, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
So with all this celebration in the air (literally), how are you and I, as followers of Christ and DUAL citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and the United States... how do we preserve and honor our blessings and rights, and freedoms?
Well... we start by honoring God’s Word...
• Matthew 22:37-39: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” • Galatians 5:13: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
• 2 Corinthians 13:11: “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace.”
• Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
• And from our lesson for today: “Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:9–10).
Such compassion and charity is vital for the blessing of God upon a us as individuals... and as a community... and a country. When we love as Christ loves, we lead the way to the forgiveness and freedom found in Christ, and in Christ alone.
Archibald MacLeish, who received the Pulitzer Prize NOT once... but three times, hit the nail on the head when he said, “There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.”
And while I completely agree with MacLeish... I would add... that it’s more than the American Dream... it’s the call of the Kingdom of God. After all, what does the Lord require of us... but to seek justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God? Which brings about the liberation of “man and mind.”
Our scripture Lesson today calls to us: “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” “Honor one another above yourself.” “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with [those] in need. Practice hospitality.”
Wow! I don’t know how you feel about it... but such virtues seem to be in short supply today. I especially struggle to see such practical grace and decency displayed in the current political arena.
But you and I have the power to change that. We must live the change we seek. We cannot demand that other people be understanding, and considerate, and compassionate... we can’t ask others to seek justice, show mercy, and walk humbly... if we’re not doing it ourselves! “Do as I say, not as I do...” that’s the way of the hypocrite, not the humble... and certainly not Christ.
I’ve had the honor, of praying for every American President since Jimmy Carter. That is, I can remember praying for every single President since Jimmy Carter... because we prayed for our leaders, our Presidents, our country, at church and at home. I’m too young to remember Ford, or Nixon, or Johnson...
I’m telling you this... to say, that we don’t have to agree with everything our President says or does to pray for our President... to pray for our congressman... our Senators... our mayor... our councilmen... our pastor.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still just naive enough to believe that prayer actually works... and that when someone offers me their “thoughts and prayers” they’re offering me their very best! And I’m still confident... and hopeful... that God is true to His Word... His Word that says...
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
There’s an old song that we used to sing in elementary school chorus... “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin... [with my neighbor? With my congressman? With my mayor? With my president?]... or... with me?
You and I must live the change we seek!
If you, like me, want to see our nation reflect the values... the virtues... of justice, mercy and humility... where brotherly love and hospitality are shown... and where we live in harmony with one another... then you and I need do NO more, than live the change we seek; and pray for that change...
One thing I can guarantee: it will change us.