Every morning when I come to work I get to drive by the largest American flag in the state of Alabama, next door to our church campus at Camping World. That flag is usually a point of great pride for me, and I feel the patriotism well up in me every time I see it. It also happens to be a good landmark when I invite people to church and need to tell them where we are located, “next to the huge flag.” Most people know where it is.
However, this week that flag, flying at half mast, has been a daily reminder of Sunday night’s tragedy in Las Vegas and the seeming hopelessness and despair that has gripped our land.
Whether it’s the never-ending national anthem controversy, or another senseless shooting, it’s hard to believe that we are really “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” any more.
The saddest part is that it is hardly even a surprise any more when we hear of another act of terror, when someone takes out their hatred of the world on innocent people. This event was just multiplied in its effect because of the more than 600 people who were victims of the rampage. But the reality is, every night in America there are senseless acts of violence taken out by hateful, hopeless people.
I was at a pastor’s breakfast on Thursday morning in Birmingham, and the speaker was everybody’s favorite weatherman (and children’s worship teacher) James Spann. In the midst of his words of encouragement to pastors, he brought up this week’s shooting in Las Vegas and how everyone is trying to wrap their minds around this latest event and make sense of it all.
“Everybody’s asking, ‘What is wrong with our country?’ he said. “We know what is wrong. This is what it’s like when a society goes godless.”
I have to agree with him. I don’t want to be trite and over-simplistic (and I don’t think James was either), but these events are the cumulative effect of many years of our country turning its back on God. Now I know there are so many other things at play, including complicated public policy issues and a divided political landscape like few times in our nation’s history. But there is no denying that we are in a culture war, and civility and respect for each other–and even for life itself–seem to have been discarded like yesterday’s trash. We are rapidly spiraling downward and something has to give. We are desperately in need of a gospel-infused spiritual awakening in our land.
Scroll through your social media feed for a few minutes and it doesn’t take long to figure out that everybody’s got an opinion, and a diagnosis for our nation’s ills. I have noticed that usually the problem involves someone else, and usually that someone else is from “the other side.” But it does none of us any good to point fingers and place blame for what’s wrong with our country until we are ready to look ourselves in the mirror and see if we are doing all that we can do, and being all that we can be, to make a difference.
In other words, it is easy to say that our society has “gone godless,” without recognizing that our own lives may be all but godless most days of the week. Surely it is easy to see the cause and effect of sin and rebellion in our nation; we do reap what we sow, after all. But we would all do well to concern ourselves first with our own lives and make sure we get our own houses in order before we worry about anyone else.
I hope you will join me in praying for revival: in our world, in our nation, in our state and local communities, and in our church. And let us be the salt and light of gospel influence wherever the Lord places us. We mustn’t forget in these despairing times that we as the church have something to offer: hope for our hopeless world, Light for the darkness, love amidst hate, truth in a time of great confusion. In Jesus Christ, who loves the world so much He gave Himself up for it, we have what the world needs so desperately.