Two weeks ago Al Mohler posted a blog about “The American Experience” and the Death of Evangelism. The article sites the mounting evidence that more and more Americans do not believe that God will punish men and women who do not believe in Jesus Christ as the only way for salvation for all eternity in hell. He believes that one of the contributing factors to the perishing evangelical conscience is our staunch, deep-rooted beliefs rooted in “patriotism, a sense of fair play, equality, personal autonomy, and limitless opportunity.” These background ideas shape the way that we interact with and respond to life and God.

While Mohler provides some penetrating insight into the affect of the assumptions on evangelism in the contemporary church of America, I think these assumptions have gripped the human heart in other significant ways that impact our views of God, faith and biblical community in ways that are both unhealthy and contrary to the Words of God as revealed in Scripture.

While patriotism in itself isn’t wrong, and it is certainly right for us as the people of the United States of America to pursue the cause of justice, righteousness and peace in our nation and the world around us, the lines between allegiance to country and allegiance to God can often become blurred, and are, at times, incongruous in relationship with one another. The ambitions of the social consciousness of America are not necessarily pursuing the interests and purposes of God, and in reality, it might be a stretch to argue that they ever were. It wasn’t the intentions of our founding fathers that the United States be a theocracy. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that we should not be so attached to this country that we forget our primary allegiance is to a far country. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that it is to come” (Heb 13:14).

A sense of fair play is what, in part, makes our government and economy work. But fairness isn’t necessarily a prized virtue in God’s economy. First and foremost, we must recognize that the gift of salvation is about fairness, but about grace. If all men are sinners, then all men deserve death. But God rescues sinners through the redeeming, justifying, sanctifying, glorifying work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We receive it, not because God is fair, but because God is gracious and merciful. If he were fair, He would give us what we deserve.

Not only is fairness not a part of God’s design in salvation history, but fairness is uncommon in the Christian community. Believers are called to bear the obligation to serve the weak (Rom 15:1) by exercising restraint the display of their liberties in Christ in the Gospel. Believers are challenged to settle their disputes with other believers within the church, and that if it comes down to it, it would be better to be defrauded than shame the name of Christ with a public lawsuit, even though the lawsuit itself might be justified based on the offense (1Cor 6:7) Believers are instructed over and over again to bridle their tongue as a demonstration of true religion (James 1:26) rather than exercise the unfiltered freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. In other words, what might be fair in American terms may not necessarily be honoring to God.

The Scriptures speak plainly about the issue of equality. “For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26-28). All men and women are created in God’s image (Gen 2:27), and thus, since all are image-bearers, all possess inherent value and significance. Men and women, boys and girls, are to be treated with respect and dignity as God’s creatures. And yet, the Bible doesn’t define equality in the same way that we do with our postmodern minds. God sees men and women as equal, yet distinct. They serve complementary roles in society and culture. And biblically speaking, equality does not mean indiscriminate acceptance of one’s behavior as inherently determining one’s identity. The goal and gain of the Gospel is that Jesus has come to rescue and redeem us from ourselves, not turn us over to our destructive desires (Romans 1).

One of the most prized American virtues is personal autonomy. Sadly, we often define personal autonomy as the freedom to do was one so desires without restraint, as long as what one so desires does not infringe upon the liberties of others. But just because we can do something does not necessarily mean that we should do what we desire. Personal autonomy is often rooted in selfishness. It has become a way to make provision for the flesh, which the Bible warns us against doing (Gal 5:13) because living with a “me-first” sense of entitlement violates the law which is summed up in this: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Gal 5:14).” The ambitions of independence often lead to rebellion and treason against God’s revealed purposes for our lives.

These, of course, are just some of the assumed American virtues that shape the way that we relate to God and others in our world. It takes the wisdom of God help us appropriately discern our hearts so that we might know if our lives are being governed by the virtues of God and His Kingdom or the virtues of this world, specifically as shaped by the American Dream.

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