The Optimistic Christian
A Spiritual Wake-up Call
At a time like this, it is useful to remember that the Bible gives us no reason to suppose we will be able to control the behavior of our political leaders. We may assign ourselves the obligation of picking better leaders, and I believe God will help us with insight in that regard. But there is no magic formula—no "system"—by which we can guarantee that our leaders will do only what we would have them do, or not do what we wish they wouldn't.
Meanwhile, what can we do about these alarming events unfolding at a distance from us? The answer I keep hearing is: "Look to your own hearts." That's what God is looking at, after all. When we stand before Him at the Last Judgment, He won't ask us to account for what Eric Holder or Darrell Issa did. Although He sees our political interactions more clearly and comprehensively than we do, they are, for Him, a subordinate phenomenon. What He cares about is the spirit and character of each individual.
We do seem to be reacting to these trying times with some salutary humility and growing good sense. Columnist Jonah Goldberg pointed out on June 6 that our household savings rate has soared from a negative net rate in 2005 to 3.4 percent in 2012. Families are pulling together across generations, and job-seekers are taking care to come across to prospective employers as mature and responsible. I suspect many of us are finding that these are actually good things—things we wish we had done sooner, as opposed to annoyances we hope to escape as soon as possible.
But spiritual transformation is even more important. Suppose the great result of this period in American history is a surge of the Holy Spirit in our people? Suppose, in fact, that that brings healing and bounty?
It seems counterintuitive to our extremely materialist, heavily politicized modern consciences that the remedy for bad government would be turning our attention away from politics to cultivate character in ourselves. We view life as a systematic affair: one of predictable social mechanisms, patterns and trends, causes and effects; of good hygiene, good choices, good skill and admirable restraint. We like to congratulate ourselves on mastering rules, like the Pharisee in Jesus' parable of the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
But systems are a limiting factor, and a poor substitute for personal alignment with the heart of God. The most important interaction any of us ever has is accomplished through mercy and grace—which cannot be confined within a system, and which cannot be earned like rewards but only asked for, one on one with the Father, and gratefully accepted.
Mercy and grace—the blessings of Jesus Christ—are the evidence that God's desire is not to punish us. His desire is for our hearts to change. He may let bad government act for us as a warning and a rebuke, but He does this because it's a path to our hearts. Imagine being the generation that gets this through our thick heads. God doesn't consider politics the coin of His spiritual trade with us. His priority isn't political interactions or government-brokered outcomes. He wants us. If our hearts change, everything else will too.
J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval intelligence officer and evangelical Christian. She retired in 2004 and blogs from the Inland Empire of southern California. She writes for Commentary's CONTENTIONS blog, Hot Air's Green Room, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.