America and the Season of Hope
By Tom McAllister
As our nation proceeds through the holidays, Christians celebrate the birth of their Lord. Despite this season that traditionally emphasizes hope, many are pondering in trepidation the fate of our country as it continues to veer deeper into postmodern secularism. How or who can help us alter our current trajectory toward destruction? According to one famous pastor, it’s not going to be the church.
Andy Stanley, who leads one of the largest multi-campus churches in America, tweeted this summer that “saving America is NOT the mission of the church.” That’s true as the mission of the Church is to “make disciples.” However, these are not mutually exclusive initiatives. They are quite compatible and synergistic. In fact, it could be argued that had the Church experienced even modest success in the pursuit of its mission over the past threescore years, our nation would not be in the precarious situation it faces today. Let’s examine these two objectives of making disciples and saving America further.
A disciple is a student or learner -- a journeyman in support of a philosophy or teaching. Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To follow Christ is a twofold process where the first is to follow Him (Truth) along the proper path (Way) to the final destination of heaven. The second is a transformational process to become like Christ in every aspect of one’s being (Life). Jesus explained the discipleship journey in this way, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.”
Those followers with a bit of marketing savvy would have groaned at this declaration. Imagine their murmuring in modern-day speak, “We’re trying to start a movement here, Lord. We need Likes, Shares, and Subscribes. Speak about peace, love, and how cool heaven will be -- not this cross stuff. Who wants to pick up a cross?” Who indeed?
Jesus gave us the Golden Rule to treat others as how one wish to be treated. When asked which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus responded citing Deut 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18 to love God with all you’ve got (body, mind, spirit) and to love others as you love yourself. There are three loves involved: love for God, love for others, and love for self. Since the term “love triangle” has some negative connotations, let’s call this relationship an “agape triangle.” His next statement was even more remarkable, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Every law, rule, and principle, every “thou shall” and thou shall not” is summed up in this agape triangle which has only one verb -- love. This agape love is a caring, charitable, pay-it-forward action that has another’s best interest at heart. It is unconditional in application. Therefore, at the disciple’s transactional level of life, every decision should be motivated and agape-triangle-tested to ensure it reflects a proper love for God, love for others, and love for self.
Thus, when one applies the requirements for discipleship, we deny ourselves by not being self-centered and put others first. Employing a different geometric construct, one can visualize our love for God in the vertical (God above us) and our love for others in a horizontal (peer-to-peer) relationship. Put these vertical and horizontal loves together, it forms a cross -- a cross of love. Thus, disciples pick up and carry daily a cross of love. This is not easy. It’s hard to love someone who has hurt or betrayed you or a boss/authority figure who has abused you. It’s very difficult to love a terrorist who desires to kill you, but that is the command.
How does all this come together in a pragmatic way? To follow Christ is to pursue truth and respond to every situation in love. It is at this intersection of truth and love that one finds wisdom. When we love others, we bless them and thus nurture their growth. An interesting phenomenon is that when we love others, we bless ourselves. A common tactic or prescription for those suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental distressing states is to have them go and volunteer to help others. One, this alleviates the patient’s stress by taking their mind off their own problems, but it also causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals (serotonin, dopamine) that improves their own mood and well-being. When you love others, you bless them, you bless yourself and to complete the hat trick, God is glorified. It’s a win-win-win scenario.
From a lean, six-sigma perspective, there is an astonishing efficiency and effectiveness in this interaction. A person performs an act of love, the recipient is blessed, the giver is blessed and God is glorified from one single act! This enhanced performance is developmental -- it produces growth. Each agape cycle of loving others is self-motivating. The incremental addition of encouragement through the feedback loop of positive reinforcement via satisfaction for both giver and receiver stimulates future similar action. These blessings grow and multiply such that it creates an upward spiral of love. Why does this work? Because God designed it this way. When humanity, created in His image, aligns with His design, all participants are blessed. For the Christ-follower, truth and love are not abstract theoretical concepts. Truth and love is Christ for He is the wisdom of God.
Now, imagine this agape cycle in continual practice within one’s family. Then visualize this process in your neighborhood and community, your state, region, and nation. Imagine its embrace by our culture and society. It would direct the motivational behavior and mission of our nation and if expanded globally -- the world. Yes, there would still be cancer, pandemics, and drought, but in terms of what we humans can control (our attitude and behavior); it is inspirationally optimized. Instead of RAOK (Random Acts of Kindness), they become Routine Acts of Kindness.
Even if one doesn’t believe in God, the logic of the Golden Rule is compelling. To save America and to make America great, America must reestablish its goodness. This calls for an emphasis on personal integrity and responsibility, on justice, and a proactive willingness to selflessly serve, encourage, and assist others. The agape triangle becomes the evaluation template for every decision we make. Is running up our national debt in the best interest of the citizens of our country? Are drag queens good role models for our children? Should we encourage transgenderism? Is abortion on demand an act of love or selfishness? Does Critical Race Theory promote unity and synergy or create dissention and division? Does the media, education, the arts, science, and our government promote objective truth or an agenda? Do our elected leaders exhibit servanthood in addressing the needs of the people or are they examples of arrogance and self-centeredness? We could go on.
America has a lot of problems to work through. Yes, it is not the job of the Church to save America, but if the Church became proficient in making disciples, then saving America would be an expected by-product. The mountain ahead is steep. Yet, in this season of hope, we know that with God all things are possible. Merry Christmas!
Tom McAllister, Ed.D, is a business consultant, adjunct professor, and the author of Short Strolls in Faith. Several concepts for this article came from his research paper, “All Excellence is God’s Excellence: Examining the Fractal Nature of Biblical Wisdom for Decision-making in Complex Environments.”
THANKS TO: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2022/12/america_and_the_season_of_hope.html