Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Two Beliefs About America

(Sunset on Lake Erie, Maumee Bay, Ohio)

When Jesus looked upon the crowds he felt compassion. Com-passion means "to feel with." Jesus felt with the people.

He felt with the people because he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. That's how I view America. Even, parts of the church. America lacks a moral, spiritual voice. 

Is this important? I believe so. I see things this way.

1. The problems in America are not primarily economic and political, they are spiritual and moral. Our problems are about the condition of human hearts.

2. Change human hearts and behavioral change will follow. Relationships will change. Systems will change (to include family systems). Cultures will change.

Focus on heart change rather than behavioral change. Otherwise, you may have the head without the heart.

In the 1980s I was part of the Religious Advisers Association of Michigan State University. I remember one meeting where we were discussing (again!) the problem of alcohol abuse on campus. A university representative was sharing a program they had come up with, called "Bacchus," named after the Greek god of wine and fertility. Wine and fertility. This struck me as the problem, not the solution.

After detailing the new program for us, the MSU representative asked us what we thought. When it was my turn I responded: "It won't work."

I shared my experience as an undergraduate in a fraternity. Once we had a university representative talk with us about responsible drinking. As far as I could tell this had no effect on us. Certainly, it meant nothing to me at the time.

The MSU rep then asked, "What, then, is your proposal?"

I said, "I have personally experienced and seen students who have become followers of Jesus, which resulted in deep heart change, from which emerged behavioral change. I, and many others, left drunkenness behind when our hearts were captured by Jesus."

My memory is that the room became quiet. I had some colleagues who agreed with my strategy. Some of the other religious advisors seemed uncomfortable. The MSU Bacchus rep said nothing, as I recall.

I am praying for churches in America, that hearts will be captured and re-captivated by Jesus. If this happens, the poor will be blessed, the lonely will be included, the exhausted will find rest, family systems will experience peace, joy will make an appearance and decide to stay, love will be the greatest thing, nihilism will be cast out, and people will be hopeful and expectant. 

Really? I believe so. It's the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is launching arrows at the target which is the human heart.