We live in strange times. As our nation continues to drive toward the cliff with dead brakes, righteousness is being labeled as unrighteous and immorality is being labeled as virtue.
I struggle with my inner patriot a lot these days because of it. It was great growing up in the last days of American patriotism. I would say that from 1984-1987, we saw one of our last spasms of patriotism. Sadly, even the patriotism of 9/11 lasted for too short a period of time. I am a proud American. I just feel that the America I am proud of no longer exists.
And here comes a Supreme Court decision which will very likely lock in our loss of integrity. No moral compass left. Right is now wrong. Wrong is now right. We will have a Constitution with no backbone, no integrity.
The impact of these developments on Christianity in America has been considerable. We see national denominations and local pastors/congregations drinking the poisonous Kool-Aid of relativism and universalism. While the LCMS nationally looks more peaceful, and our District had its most peaceful convention in recent memory, local congregations continue to breed conflict and lose their Gospel vision. Some local congregations are even guilty of not making new Christians, but rather cherrypicking disgruntled people out of neighboring congregations in a move which looks more Darwinian than Christian. The numbers may look great, but beware the cost that is coming.
Our numbers show the impact of America’s lack of integrity. Too often American Christianity has looked, well, more American than Christian. (And the Patriot in me just shivered at the fact that I typed that sentence. That was not easy to write, not at all).
It seems we in the American Church have been lowering our standards for decades now, thinking we were “adapting” to the changes in our society. In Matt. 5:20, Jesus says: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Remarkable to me is the quiet compliment this comment makes about the Pharisees. (Of course, He will debunk them thoroughly by the end of the sermon). But His comment seems to say, “Those self-righteous Pharisees are at least genuine in their self-righteousness. Your righteousness needs to exceed theirs.”
Of course, we have no righteousness of our own to claim here. Then Jesus raises the bar impossibly high in the Sermon on the Mount, taking the Ten Commandments and raising their bars one-by-one. How can one have integrity against such an impossible standard? How can the Christian Church today get its integrity back against the pressures of our immoral age when it can’t even meet Christ’s standard?
Well, maybe the answer is more simple than it looks. Beginning with repentance, we admit we can’t do this. We admit it. We confess it. We haven’t met Christ’s standard. We can’t meet it. We need Him to meet it.
And the Good News is that He does…and then He gives you that righteousness as if you had won it yourself!
As I have written recently, echoing our Synod President Matt Harrison, NOW is the time for us to be who we are. Sinners who are not proud of our sin. Saints who rejoice in Christ’s gifts. And NOW is the time to show others what real Christianity looks like.
It’s not our integrity we are demonstrating. It’s Christ’s. His perfect righteousness. To Him be the glory.
We must decrease. Christ will increase. A humble Christianity, it seems to me, will teach America far better than a proud one, a vain one, a Darwinian one.
The Good News is that it’s not on you or me to save the world. Christ does that. But He does work through you. It’s as simple as being a Little Christ to your child, your spouse, your neighbor, your co-worker, your family, your friends, your enemies, etc.
Integrity, it seems to me, is being who we are as Christians and not pretending to be someone we are not. It’s time to be sinners. It’s time to be saints. It’s precisely what this country and its people need. Christ and His righteousness. That is all.
Rejoicing in Christ’s covering of my sins,