When asked which words best describe the state of the nation, respondents to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll overwhelmingly selected negative terms, including “divided,” “troubled,” “deteriorating,” and “broken.” A significant number of Americans interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with the economy and worry about our nation’s $17 trillion debt, which President Obama has done little to address. Economic stress seems to be wearing down Americans, who think Congress should make job creation and deficit reduction its top priorities this year.
For the last decade, the majority of Americans have believed the country is on the wrong track. This year, 63 percent of respondents stated that the country is headed in the wrong direction, while only 28 percent think the country is on the right track. Fred Yang, who conducted the survey with Bill McInturff, said, “It seems like we’ve been reliving the same basic dynamics — a public that is anxious, dissatisfied, and dismayed — in a continuous loop.”
Neither President Obama nor Congress is exempt from the public’s ire. An incredible 81 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress, while 51 percent disapprove of the job President Obama is doing in office. Indeed, 68 percent of respondents believe the country is either stagnant or worse off than when Mr. Obama was inaugurated in 2009. Despite being called a savior and promising to heal the planet after his election, Mr. Obama, who is running what a New York Times editor called the most secretive administration she has ever covered, has delivered some of the change — but none of the hope — he offered in his presidential campaign.
The Source of Our Hope Is God, Not Government (Psalm 20:7)
Psalm 20:7 reads, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” It is devastating when people place their hope in the fleeting, temporal elements of life, looking to wealth, science, or the government for salvation. The Scriptures repeatedly reveal that our hope for salvation ought to be placed solely in Jesus, our Mediator, who sits at the right hand of God, having entered God’s presence as a forerunner for us (Hebrews 6:19). Paul, after defending his belief in the resurrection of the body, writes, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Those who place their hope in our nation’s GDP will be disappointed. Those who place their hope in the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be disappointed. And those who place their hope in Congress are to be most pitied. For neither a high standard of living nor bills passed by Congress will solve humanity’s true problem: sinfulness. Until individuals repent of their sins and cling to Christ, we will never see a reduction in poverty, crime, and divorce. Only when Christians abide by the glorious gospel of Christ will we overcome sinfulness and begin to transform our communities, our economy, and our Congress.
What Can Christians Do to Breathe Life Into Their Communities?
Americans believe their country is broken, and they are learning the government is rather ineffective at healing this divided nation. The ineptitude of our government — and people’s dissatisfaction with it — should not come as a surprise, for satisfaction has never been drawn from the policy proposals of federal legislators, but from the health and vibrancy of community life. Christians can breathe new life into their communities and reduce the anxieties of their neighbors by modeling Christian living, volunteering, and donating to charitable causes.
Here is how your church can bring healing to a broken nation:
Encourage, support, and promote marriage: The family is the fundamental unit of our society. Thriving marriages lead to better incomes, more life satisfaction, and better health. By cultivating strong marriages, we can turn people’s attention away from Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Kim and Kanye, and Brangelina, and toward the noble examples in our own churches. Churches can foster strong marriages by offering premarital counseling, assistance for struggling couples, and mentors for newlyweds, while discussing the ways in which marital commitment is far more beneficial than cohabitation.
Help people return to work: A considerable amount of pessimism and anxiety in our society has resulted from perpetually high unemployment and a growing number of people who have dropped out of the workforce. By starting a support group for the unemployed individuals in your church, you can bring hope and encouragement to those who are currently jobless. In some churches, elders are mentoring the unemployed in their congregations, discipling them and helping them locate job opportunities. Paul says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).
Volunteer: Paul encourages the Philippians to “look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). A divided country will be united not by the efforts of Barack Obama — not by a minimum wage hike or universal pre-K — but by the efforts of Christians who inject hope into the lives of their neighbors. When Christians are active at their local YMCAs — as yoga instructors or little league coaches — they form a culture that is built on hope and camaraderie, not pessimism and despair. By serving at homeless shelters, local political campaigns, and recreation centers, Christians can share their hope and exemplify Christian virtue.
Share God-given talents: Encourage the people in your church to transform their communities — and their nation — by joining bowling leagues, dance classes, book clubs, and poetry readings in order to redeem the culture around them. The best way to convert others to a biblical worldview is to show them what it looks like in action, but no one can see the light of God when we hide it. Instead, we must put the light on display, so that all can see it (Luke 11:33).