If you want to see a young person roll their eyes, watch closely when someone with gray hair says, “Well, things were a lot different (better?) back when I was growing up ….” If you are younger, just wait. You will say the same thing someday. I promise.
There are some things about the past that were good, though. Here is one that sounds almost too good to be true. Some of the old-timers here in Philly remember back when no one had to lock their doors here in the city. That was actually true! Wow, things have really changed, haven’t they, and not for the better?
To be fair, there are a lot of positive things about our city and our country. America is the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet. We enjoy the world’s best health care and a life-expectancy that keeps increasing. Instead of using our military, the strongest mankind has ever seen, to conquer other nations, we have liberated millions of people. Right now we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in recent history. What more could we want, right?
Some changes–like the ones listed above–are good. Others, not so much. There are some also negatives in our country, to be sure.
For example, families in America are more fractured than ever before. Did you know that over 40% of all children born in America (80% of minority children) don’t have the benefit of growing up with both a mom and a dad?
I believe that is one way that America has gotten off track. Studies have shown that fatherless homes are the main reason why young people get into trouble with the law. Research done by the Heritage Foundation reveals that:
- Over the past thirty years, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers.
- High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families without fathers.
- State-by-state analysis by Heritage scholars indicates that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes leads typically to a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
- The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers. [See: at/azCQS]
In order to find our way back, we must figure out where we went wrong. Our country is like a train that has jumped the tracks. The engine may be powerful, the cars may be deluxe, but nothing good happens once it leaves the tracks.
My thoughts about where we have gone wrong may shock you, especially since I pastor a church. Much of the blame, I believe, lies at the doorstep of American churches. Jesus told one church that they had gotten off track when they left their “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Christians should pay close attention to that warning, because if we are not consumed with a love for Christ, then we too have gotten off track.
William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in the middle 1800s gave us this eerie prediction: “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without [a changed life], politics without God, and heaven without hell.” Churches get into trouble when they forget that they exist to exalt and glorify Jesus. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). It is way too easy to focus on religious ceremonies, political action, or social activity instead of lifting up the name of Jesus Christ.
Too often, churches that claim to follow Jesus want the world’s approval more than they want Christ’s approval. Being liked and accepted, I fear, has become more important than proclaiming the truth about Jesus Christ. Instead of bragging about how exciting their Sunday services are, churches should be showing how holy and loving their God is. Out of a fear of offending people, many churches have subtly shifted their message away from Christ. Even though the Bible’s message may not be “culturally correct” in our day, we should follow the example of the Apostle Paul. He proclaimed it anyway. He said that his main passion was to talk about “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified . . . so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2,5).
Be encouraged. Jesus can fix our families, but we can’t do it by ourselves. First, more people must turn and follow Jesus Christ. That will happen when more of us begin a personal, individual relationship with our Creator. “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
I am praying that we will get back on track as a city and as a nation. If you are interested in that, I have a booklet that will help. It’s called, “Living Water: The Gospel of John.” Just call me or e-mail me, and I’ll send it to you for free.