We could be a nation of character if we turned back to God. That's my prayer. Yours?
|A Nation of Characters
by Marilyn Mackenzie
Our pastor started a series of sermons about character the day before the shooting at Virginia Tech. I’ve heard from friends in other parts of the country whose pastors preached or are preaching on a similar theme. Was God preparing them to remind us of the importance of godly behaviors, of building character in ourselves and our children? Was He preparing them to teach us that we cannot achieve goodness on our own, no matter how hard we might try?
As a baby boomer, I thought that my school years were tough, just as my parents thought before me. Our burdens were different back then. Our parents and grandparents experienced poverty and world wars. We lived through culture changes that included drugs, sex, and demonstrating against the government, disagreeing with the government.
Today’s children, face a world much different than the one I faced at their age, or the one that my parents faced. And they face it in a culture that deems God unnecessary, that even ridicules God and those who profess a belief in God.
The world changed when we stopped letting God reside in the classroom. It changed when we started teaching that individual rights were more important than collective rights. It changed when we started believing that we could survive without God, that there were no absolute truths.
There are absolute truths. We should acknowledge that there are universal right and wrong behaviors. The Ten Commandments makes an excellent foundation of what is right and wrong, even for those who proclaim no faith. The Commandments say that we should not kill, steal, commit adultery, covet our neighbor’s house, give false testimony. These are right behaviors, behaviors not being taught to our children. Instead, our children are learning that what is right for them is right, although it may not be right for the people around them. That cannot work, and we’re seeing on a daily basis that it does not work.
The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31 NIV), “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” is found in many faiths. Obviously, this is an idea that we should embrace and teach to our children.
Jesus said (Matthew 22:37-39) that the two most important commands were to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we truly love our neighbor, then we will cherish him, respect him, and honor him. Even those who do not know or love God can certainly love their neighbors. And in doing so, our world will become a better place. Learning to value and put others before us is an important part of learning to be a good citizen.
To anyone who will pick up a Bible and read, these words are there. The book of Proverbs gives us an excellent foundation for rules of conduct. It tells us both what the wise will do, and what the foolish will do, in often simple terms.
If we are not hungering for God’s word, it’s because we have filled ourselves up with other things, with trash. (Proverbs 15:14 NLT - A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.) Perhaps it’s time for us to turn off the TV’s and video games for a while and truly study God’s word.
We may have allowed God to be stricken from our classrooms, but He will be there for the girl who prays for help as she stands before the class giving a report. He will be there for the boy who prays for guidance and strength as he completes the test before him. And God will be there in front of the classroom for the teacher who asks God for wisdom in teaching. But God will not barge in where He is not invited.
As a nation, we used to invite God into the entire school. Now, it is up to each student and each teacher who believes in Him to invite God into the school, into the classroom, into the sports arena. God will certainly come if we ask.
When we do not know how to pray, God’s Holy Spirit will help in that regard. Or we can use the Bible as a starting place. David offered up prayers in the book of Psalms. Jesus gave us a model prayer in the Lord’s Prayer.
Bruce Wilkinson made the prayer of Jabez very popular. It is a prayer that each one of us could easily remember. "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." 1 Chronicles 4:10 (NIV)
None of these formal prayers are necessary, though. Just uttering the words, “Father, please help me,” will be enough. Telling God what is on your heart, then praising Him for your blessings is an easy thing to do, but one that so many neglect.
And yet, if we became a nation of prayer again, if we started allowing God to touch each part of our lives and stopped trying to confine Him to the church walls, God offers us a wonderful promise. “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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
We could go from a nation of characters to a nation of character once more, if we just turned back to God. That is my prayer; what is yours?