Many Christians lay claim to Bible verses meant at a certain time for a specific person or nation, and apply those verses to themselves in their current context. I’ve seen this one recently:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God is here responding to Solomon’s prayer after his building of the temple. This promise is that when God visits calamity (drought and locusts in this instance) on His people (Israel), He will answer their prayer as conditioned above. This is not a promise for America in any year—even one so devastating as 2020 has been.
Now, one can read the New Testament and see that it is good—even urged (1 Timothy 2:1-2)—for believers to pray for their leaders. I’m simply trying to temper expectations and coach that the Bible should be read in context—considering who wrote what to whom for what reason.
So, should we pray for our nation and leaders? Of course, even if you don’t like them! However, we don’t know what God has in store for the United States of America. This present disunity might be a blip in a long, glorious history, or it might be the tinder that starts a conflagration halting this experiment well short of completing its third century. Not only is it the Christian’s duty to pray, it is our privilege and it leads to our peace regardless of the outcome.
God can do anything, of course; even unify this dysfunctional, polarized mess of a country. But, we haven’t seen much unity since the few minutes after 9/11. All said, I am hoping and praying that we can simply return to civil discourse and sane evaluation of facts over emotional rhetoric.
Unfortunately, the truth can be prickly and unforgiving. Take history, for example—every moment before this one. Whatever happened…happened. Logged in the annals of God, there is no “undo” or “do-over.” Experience of that history may be perspectival, and some remembrance might be subjective, but made available to us in most instances are sufficiently objective (truthful) accounts from which we might get a reasonable picture.
In this, we should evaluate historical characters and events in toto, and again, in the context in which we find them. To dismiss people as evil for accepting some things their era approved is an instance of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” I would think that adults could look at someone, and evaluate them and their achievements and failures in the complexity we afford ourselves.
For the Christian, we must look at our personal wielding of truth—do we use it as a club for offensive “victory” or for edification in kind words? Further, are we willing to handle truth that might disturb our preconceptions, or the political narrative we align with?
Finally, we must not in any sense join, or oppose in like manner, the “woke” crowd and their cancel culture. Even while condemning their behavior and the pharisaic vitriol with which they execute judgment on the smallest step outside the ever-changing narrative, the grace we know should extend to them and all who don’t share our knowledge of the truth.
Christian, in these troubling times, pray, trust in God’s providence, and persevere. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Steve Post is a Tallahassee resident, armchair theologian, and past local ministry lay leader. Contact him at email@example.com.