By Cathy Keim
Yesterday morning I attended the 6th Annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. The Midway Room was packed with about 500 guests, and the event was the usual mix of local dignitaries, pastors, and citizens. There was the Presentation of Colors by the Color Guard of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Sheriff Mike Lewis. The Salisbury Christian School Concert Band provided breakfast music and an assortment of local leaders led the invocation, prayers, Bible readings, and singing.
All in all, it was a pretty standard ecumenical religious event. However, I know that I felt a difference. Instead of taking it for granted that we were meeting with the general approval of the majority of the citizens in our county, I wondered how many of our fellow citizens would view the event with derision or suspicion? In fact, a fellow guest shared that he had heard some folks poking fun at the gathering.
It is not just my imagination that the public’s attitude towards Christians has shifted from acceptance to suspicion. Where politicians would once attend church (at least for public view), now there is no need for that.
I was speaking to a young man about a character reference for a job just last week. In the past, his pastor would have been petitioned for a letter, but now that might not be who you want to write your reference.
The guest speaker at the prayer breakfast was Randy Singer, a lawyer and pastor, from Virginia Beach. He addressed the change in our nation by comparing us to Rome in the time of Nero and the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment. Even those of us with public school educations know that Nero was one of the very worst Roman emperors. From that unflattering comparison, Mr. Singer assured us that while our country is in distress, we are not without hope.
People can endure much, but when hope is lost, people languish. Mr. Singer pointed to the lengthy difficulties under which Paul had suffered for years and yet this is what Paul wrote from prison in Philippians 1:3-8 (NIV):
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Christians in America, we are to have hope that whether we are in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, we all share in God’s grace with the Apostle Paul. I do not know how many more public meetings of Christians will be endorsed by our elected leaders. The need for Christians to stand firm on multiple principles such as marriage, gender, pro-life, assisted suicide, and freedom of speech, just to name a few, will be put to the test if you have escaped thus far.
Just stating the Biblical truth that marriage is between a man and a woman can jeopardize your employment. Countless companies and organizations are coercing employees to submit to seminars to prevent “discrimination.” If somebody objects, then they are forced to take more courses or be fired. We can lament the change in our country and feel discouraged, or we can emulate the Apostle Paul and look to our Lord Jesus Christ with hope that we are living exactly in the time that God intended and that He will see us through the murky path ahead.
Yes, America has changed and many of us would say not for the better, but we are to share the hope that is within us, not to obsess on the decline of the nation that we love.
Where once the civil religion and Christianity were viewed as the almost the same thing, now Christianity is portrayed as repressive, old-fashioned, boring, or worse. The materialists, atheists, and progressives do not need to wrap themselves in a civil religion to gain acceptance. We are in a new time and place in our country or so the materialists, atheists, and progressives would say.
However, God gave this promise to King Solomon in ancient Israel because He knows that proud men will overreach and when they do this is what must be done:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14
Christians, continue to pray, work, and engage in your community, not with fear or a sense of loss for what was, but with the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are living right where we are meant to be.