Matney: Heal our land

Having just celebrated Independence Day, my thoughts have turned to the needs of our nation. God raises up nations and sets leaders in place. Benjamin Franklin said, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Father’s notice, is it probable that a nation can rise without his help? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it.”

Franklin was referring to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10:29 and he was quoting Solomon from Psalm 127:1. He was making the point that we need God’s help in our nation. Today, among our divided and hurting people, we need God’s help.

As I write this article, I do so with thanksgiving in my heart for the nation in which I live. And, because I love our nation, I feel compelled to call on us to acknowledge our failings and take positive steps to change. I don’t believe the United States has failed worse than any other nation on Earth, but to whom much is given much is required, and so we need to give due diligence to amending our ways, individually and nationally. And so, from my house to your house, from the courthouse to the White House, we all need a change of heart.

In Ezekiel, Chapter 22, God told the prophet to confront Israel with its sins. The many sins included violence, bloodshed, greed, abuse of power and authority, disrespecting parents, oppressing immigrants, mistreating orphans, widows, and the poor and needy, despising holy things, slander, sexual sin, charging high interest rates, robbery, forgetting God and prophesying false visions of peace and safety and failing to teach and preach the difference between right and wrong and holy and unholy living. According to verses 25-29, Israel’s priests, preachers, prophets, politicians and people alike were guilty of these sins; that’s everybodyl The list of Israel’s sins looks a lot like our own. And, we too need to repent, individually and nationally, and get back to the compassion, morality and righteousness of God.

Jesus brought sin right down to the personal level. He said if you look on another person with lust, you’ve committed fornication or adultery. Scripture goes on to teach us that if we hate a person, we’ve murdered him. If we covet another person’s wealth and blessings, we’re greedy. And, covetousness is idolatry which is putting self and someone or something ahead of God.

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What is repentance? First, it does not mean groveling at God’s feet as a worthless human or whipping ourselves with a cat-of-nine-tails. Repentance is acknowledging that we were created for better things but through our own choices have fallen short of God’s best for us. Repentance is embracing the idea that God’s wisdom and ways are better for me. Repentance is enlightened self-interest. The word “repentance” comes from the Greek word, “metanoia,” meaning a change of mind. I once thought my selfish living and all that entails was OK, but now I realize God’s ways are better, and I turn from my old behaviors, attitudes and ideas, and to God’s ways.

Abraham Lincoln asked a question we might do well to ask ourselves in the midst of our divided and hurting nation, “May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins…? In the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called for a national day of repentance. He said, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” And then he proclaimed a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.”

Today, let us make every day a day of repentance and prayer on behalf of ourselves individually and for our nation. And then, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high.”

The divine teaching is, among other scriptures, found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will 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.”

Heavenly Father, forgive our sin and heal our land. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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