No Fear

Who are the angriest people in America? If you guessed evangelical Christians, you're right. James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, says evangelicals are among the most worried, upset, and angry citizens in the country. Hunter points to a recent Gallup poll that found that majorities of Americans think the "governing elite" is "unconcerned with values and morality," unconcerned with the common good, and cares about nothing as much as its own elitist agenda. The poll also revealed that it's conservative Christians who feel most torn about their country. Eighty-one percent of this group believe America is in either a strong or moderate decline, compared to 51 percent of the total population. Christian conservatives, Hunter concludes, "articulate a remarkable pessimism" about America's future. If the poll is accurate, something is not quite right--not only with America but also with Christians. Some of this pessimism is no doubt grounded in an accurate reading of the direction in which post-Christian America is headed. But that's no reason to be anxious. Jesus warned His disciples to expect troubles. But He also encouraged them not to succumb to fear, because they have a Father in heaven who cares deeply for them. If modern Christians truly believe that, we ought to be known among our countrymen not for our fearfulness but for our radiant hope. Of course, Christians ought to be concerned about the decline of American culture. I surely am. But we need to balance that concern with confidence in God's purposes in history. The doctrine of providence teaches that God is in control of our lives, our society, and our world, weaving together all events--both good and bad--for His glory. The great Protestant reformer John Calvin contended that not a wind blows, not a drop of rain falls, without the express command of God. "He so regulates all things," Calvin wrote, "that nothing takes place without His deliberation." From this perspective, we can begin to understand God's priorities. Obviously, He is more concerned with building a church than building up any particular country. He is more interested in using society to form His people into the image of Christ than in using Christians to change society. This is, after all, the biblical pattern. Remember, God placed Moses in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Paul in Rome, not for their comfort, but to shape their characters so that they could serve God's purposes, not their own. As Augustine wrote in The City of God, believers face the same difficulties as unbelievers. But Augustine pointed out that Christians should be set apart by the way they respond to life's challenges. "The great difference between human beings," he wrote, "is found not in what ills they suffer, but in what kind of persons suffer them." That's why Christians shouldn't go about looking as if we're suffering from Excedrin Headache Number One. Trusting in God may not change the country, but it just might change us. And that's a great place to start.  


Chuck Colson



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