Sunday, April 03, 2005


To Serve

As part of my walk through Proverbs with my friend John, I read these verses during my trip back from my pass and recovery from the very lengthy travel itinerary.

Proverbs 29
18Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.

...and Proverbs 30

4Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son's name,
If you know?
5Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
I have seen many commentaries these two weeks past, with many arguments and shouting matches over rights, and the proper role of judges, legislators, and executives. These conversations have all been one-sided, like two people screaming at the same time, far more uncivil than civil discourse.

And I've thought very much about the so-called "culture war," and I do not doubt for a moment that what we witness is indeed a spiritual warfare. I finished reading a book while on pass, The Great Experiment, Faith and Freedom in America, by Os Guinness as part of the Trinity Forum, published by Navpress, 2001. It's an excellent primer on the political, cultural, and theological basis for our founding documents and the motivations of our country's founders.

The basic premise is that this great experiment with democracy was anything but sure to succeed, and we assume it will last forever without preservation at our peril. The foundation of the American experiment is a dynamic balance of faith and freedom. The cornerstone of that dynamic is the American citizen who maintains his or her faith, and accepts the basic premise that each of us are endowed by our Creator, that He bestowed upon us inalienable rights (but also obligations), and that the entire structure of our government vitally depends on a faithful and virtuous citizenry.

God's word speaks of that virtue that's required of us. There is man's law, and we're to abide it and abide by it, but there's also His law. And following that law is its own reward. His burden is light, for with the Savior that law was written upon our hearts for those who believe.

I believe deeply in our faith foundations. Despite that, I know two things, one that has been true as long as we've walked the Earth, and the other that's been true since this American experiment began.

The first is that every work made of man will perish. The artifacts and edifices we create will last only a little longer than we ourselves. Only God is Eternal, and only He can make a work that lasts forever, like the Kingdom of God.

The second thing I know is that many of our fellow citizens at all times and in all places pay no heed of their neighbors. They don't watch their government, they absorb but do not taste their culture, as one might slug back a cold drink when parched from summer heat. They don't vote, and they don't care. They may think themselves citizens of the world, but in reality they are foundlings, men and women of no attachment. Civilizations can and will rise and fall around them, and as long as the stones don't crumble atop their car or house they take no notice.

There are only a minority of citizens in any civilization who in any time or place invest of themselves, commit to preserving (or improving) their societies. As Christians, we may render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, but whether we observe, uphold, nurture or respect our institutions may depend on whether we wake or sleep, and perhaps many of us are no different than our neighbors.

But I do not despair, because I know God can work with one when we think we need ten, He can work with 100 when we think we need thousands, and like the Israelites, we can bear far more than our natural abilities in His strength and power. And as has always been true, those who step forward and accept the responsibility will rally others, once events are in motion. (The Firefighters and Police of NYC come to mind, and the way their courage and sacrifice motivated our nation after 9/11.)

As John Quincy Adams wrote* as an epitaph for his parents John and Abigail Adams,
From lives thus spent thy earthly duties learn;
From fancy's dreams to active virtue turn;
Let Freedom, Friendship, Faith, thy soul engage,
And serve, like them, thy country and thy age.
* Quoted from "The Great Experiment," Os Guinness.

I am troubled only that I may fall short, or that my faith may falter, or that my energy or enthusiasm will fail, and my discouragement will temporarily blind me to the source of my strength. Through Him, all things are possible.

Your servant and fellow laborer,


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