Nationhood under God -- as we saw last time [apologies for a missed day!] -- should be characterised by right reason and living by the light of the candle of the Lord within. Too often however, it is marked instead by darkened understanding and benumbed consciences, leading to chaos and much harm, thus the urgent -- but too often suppressed -- need for repentance and reformation.
So, we need to address how we can move on beyond such a hard-hearted, foolish, self- and community- destructive state.
Paul, in Ephesians 4, addresses this, as he speaks to the young Christian movement in the Roman Empire through what is probably a circular letter to the churches:
EPH 4:17 . . . I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Thus, each of us first of all needs to respond positively to God's strategy for personal reformation and transformation:
EPH 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions . . . 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Lying behind this is God's great strategy of fullness under Christ:
EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
So, we come to the operational form of the church's mandate -- a culture-transformation [not a political or military!] strategy that is rooted in the peaceful but powerfully anointed witness to the nations of transformed lives, lives transformed through the mission of the church in the nations:
EPH 4:9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
EPH 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
One of the most aptly illustrative cases in point is the strategy of the first successful antislavery movement in the world. As Thomas Sowell notes:
A very readable and remarkable new book that has just been published -- "Bury the Chains" by Adam Hochschild -- traces the history of the world's first anti-slavery movement, which began with a meeting of 12 "deeply religious" men in London in 1787.
The book re-creates the very different world of that time, in which slavery was so much taken for granted that most people simply did not think about it, one way or the other. Nor did the leading intellectuals, political leaders, or religious leaders in Britain or anywhere else in the world.
The dozen men who formed the world's first anti-slavery movement saw their task as getting their fellow Englishmen to think about slavery -- about the brutal facts and about the moral implications of those facts.
Their conviction that this would be enough to turn the British public, and ultimately the British Empire, against slavery might seem naive, except that this is precisely what happened. It did not happen quickly and it did not happen without encountering bitter opposition, for the British were at the time the world's biggest slave traders and this created wealthy and politically powerful special interests defending slavery.
The anti-slavery movement nevertheless persisted through decades of struggles and defeats in Parliament until eventually they secured a ban on the international slave trade, and ultimately a ban on slavery itself throughout the British Empire.
Even more remarkable, Britain took it upon itself, as the leading naval power of the world, to police the ban on slave trading against other nations. Intercepting and boarding other countries' ships on the high seas to look for slaves, the British became and remained for more than a century the world's policeman when it came to stopping the slave trade . . . .
Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today's intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world . . . . As anti-slavery ideas eventually spread throughout Western civilization, a worldwide struggle pitted the West against Africans, Arabs, Asians and virtually the entire non-Western world, which still saw nothing wrong with slavery. But Western imperialists had gunpowder weapons first and that enabled the West to stamp out slavery in other societies as well as in its own.
The review of "Bury the Chains" in the New York Times tried to suggest that the ban against the international slave trade somehow served British self-interest. But John Stuart Mill, who lived in those times, said that the British "for the last half-century have spent annual sums equal to the revenue of a small kingdom in blockading the Africa coast, for a cause in which we not only had no interest, but which was contrary to our pecuniary interest."
In short, it is a matter of history, that repentant sinners fired by the vision of the gospel, can make a difference at global scale, all the frustrations, arguments, battles, compromises and mixed blessings and mixed motives that ultimately become a part of that process notwithstanding. That vision and effort profoundly influenced the history of the liberation struggle in the Caribbean, and opens the door to our own engagement of the global missionary challenge, especially in the lands from which so many of our ancestors came, the 10/40 window.
So, now, let us ask a pertinent question, as we look at the many sad cases of entrenched sin and deception in our day: why not now, why not here, why not us? END