In 1662 a number of churches in America adopted what was called the “Half-Way Covenant.” These churches had many people who had been baptized as infants, but had never shown proof of conversion later in life which was a requirement for church membership. That meant you had a bunch of adults running around who were getting married and having kids who “needed” to be baptized, but, because their parents weren’t church members people wanted to know if these kids could be baptized. The Half-Way Covenant allowed these less pious children of members to get their children baptized, but restricted them from the Lord’s Supper and voting.
Without debating the baptism issue, the problem for the early American church was that this could lead to a bunch of people who have been vaccinated against any sort of true relationship with God running around in the church and wielding influence. They may have been good people who lived moral lives, but, not having an experience with the risen Christ, they couldn’t understand the meaning of a relationship with God. Job talked about people like that…and about many people in our world today. “They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace. Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’” (Job 21:13-15)
In our current culture we applaud the man who says that he can find God on the golf course or the lake just as easily as at church while we laugh derisively at those who stress the importance of being with God’s people. They live in a society that was developed around values and morals derived from Christian beliefs and accept the benefits, but feel no obligation to the God who provided the atmosphere that made their success possible. When our culture changes, as it has been lately, they decry the difference or the lack of values not understanding that the culture they long for was established by the influence of the churches they disdain. Alexis de Tocqueville is quoted as finding the reason for America’s greatness: “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” In a political season where we the last part of this line has been quoted without the notion of churches being involved; where we are told that we need to make America great again with nary a word about the churches of America, we would do well to remember that the genius and power of the American experiment is found in her churches and that the genius and power of the churches is found in the relationship their members have with Jesus Christ.
It is easy to look at the moral values of our culture today and want to give up. Those of us who remind the country of their need for a relationship with God are often ridiculed. Those of us who seek to show our culture the desires of God according to His word are often attacked verbally or physically. To be honest, we don’t always show the need for those values in a godly way. Our call as followers of Christ in a culture that is speeding away from God’s values – my call – is to continue to love those I come into contact with as Jesus would love them and continue to point them to the love and grace of God. America will not be great again until America is good again and we have the opportunity to promote God’s goodness.
Lord God, You are good! I see a world that is turning away from You and I want to go into retreat. Give me the grace and the strength to show this world Your love and mercy in all that I say and do.