On Sunday, August 6 (below) I preached a sermon about the “Sanctification of America.” Little did I realize how timely that sermon would become just a few days later as race-based riots broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the days which followed, pressure was placed on officials throughout the South to remove statues of Confederate soldiers and the like.
As Christians, we are engaged in a growth process called sanctification. This is a cooperative process between the believer and the Holy Spirit as we move toward “perfect love,” which is how John Wesley described the goal of sanctification.
I don’t think sanctification stops with the individual. We are “One Nation, Under God;” that motto was affirmed by the House of Representatives on November 2, 2011. If we are going to proclaim ourselves as “One Nation, Under God,” then we as a nation should likewise expect to be engaged in the growth process of sanctification.
Many have pointed out the contradictions of our original U.S. Constitution: although it was rooted in freedom, it did not give freedom to slaves. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers included a way for the Constitution to be amended and in many cases, those amendments—as well as other actions enacted by our government—have led us as a nation on a path toward sanctification. It began in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was ratified and it continued as slavery was abolished; women gained the right to vote; child labor was reined in; and discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or gender has been outlawed.
Those laws and amendments do not mean we’re perfect as a nation; we’re not. But we’re better than we were.
How are we to address our somewhat sordid past? We may find a clue in the scriptures. The Bible tells us that God removes our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Yet the grievous sins of King David—adultery and murder among them—are still recorded in scripture. And remember, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 13:31). One of the mysteries of grace is that God remembers to forget our sin, even when reminders of our sin are everywhere—in some cases, in the very pages of scripture.
We cannot change our history. But we can learn from our history and avoid the wickedness which was once so ingrained in the culture of our nation. We are called to grow in grace in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. I believe that can apply to individual believers as well as to our nation as a whole.
I don’t know much more than you about the recent demonstrations and protests, but I am convinced of one thing: grace has been in short supply. Let us pray. And let us grow in grace.
Yours for the mission,