Tried and Tested

Romans 12: 10           NKJV

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

I used this quote once before in the last 40 days of this covid conundrum. It is from Thomas Paine who, in another very trying time in American history, penned these words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” This quote is from December 23, 1776. No doubt the souls of people were sorely tried and some, no doubt, found wanting. Allow me to share more of the quote. He went on to write, “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Beautiful and riveting!

Does that quote stir your patriotic verve? Do you feel the resolution to serve one another even in the face of overwhelming circumstances? I do. I feel his resolve like an iron rod, and it moves me. And I thank my God that it moves me for what kind of person, or Christian, would I be if I do not feel the angst of my fellow Americans and the fight that we are in. Paine was speaking to a divided group, wasn’t he? He saw people tried and tested. He saw the immense pressure his peers were under. He also saw that some stood up to the pressure while others crumbled. Remember that some were pledging their lives and their fortunes for the greater purpose. They were putting their hard-earned wealth and liberties on the line to fight for a greater liberty. And freedom means that we must sacrifice it in order to preserve it. The very nature of liberty is that it has a cost and often the cost is liberty itself. Its great value is in choice. We choose to give up our lives, our fortunes and our self-interest in order to fight for the greater good. That is why the cost of liberty is liberty. It only works when it is freely given. We have preserved that choice in this country. You have the right to choose to be selfless which is what Paine was trying to encourage along with fealty and esprit de corps. Those words sound archaic. Have we forgotten what they mean? Or instead, do they still quicken the heart rate of Americans to this day? I pray it is the latter.

I am reminded also of this great quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Do you remember that one, and who said it and the circumstances of the time? It was another time the nation was in great distress. We are living in a historical moment too. What will be the refrain which comes of it? What will we say of ourselves when we look back at this time of crisis?

The dialogue in America has changed over the last many weeks. We’ve been fighting a foe that we cannot see and whose invasion is subtle and imperceptible. We cannot get the bite of our swords into our adversary, so we have turned on one another. We’ve changed from “We are all in this together” to a discourse of we versus them. Our jobs as Christians is to take our eyes off ourselves and ask what we can do for others. We began this way. What happened to us?

Look at today’s verse from the New Living Translation, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Let’s pick up this banner again and wave it proudly across our nation. Let’s again ask ourselves what we can do for others. What can you do that is purely selfless that helps someone else? What can you say that brings encouragement? It’s only been one week since “Giving Tuesday” and less than that from the National Day of Prayer. Perhaps those two memorials can inspire us again this week. Can you give something? God knows we need the prayer.

Please, take this time to assess where we are right now. Not politically, not the rhetoric but where we stand as Americans and Christians. To what are we giving our passion? Are we given to rants or prayer? This is the time when it gets hard. And this is exactly what Paine witnessed. What began well, wanes as people tire. Everyone is supportive and gung-ho in the beginning but as a situation wears on it takes real fortitude to continue to stand in the fight. But this is my question, if not us, then whom? To whom do we delegate prayer, love and compassion?

My beloved, I come to you today asking for your heart. I know you too are tired. There have been many pressures and inconveniences, but your country needs you. No, not the other guy, you. You are the most dedicated people on earth. And I have seen you demonstrate unparalleled kindness and compassion. So, I am asking you to reach deep down today for the very heart of God which resides within you. Christians, unite, in the mighty name of our Lord and pray from a heart of love and compassion. Do not allow anything to divide us. Let us not fail in our mission to love one another and to serve one another with compassion. Protect and guard your heart.

And I pray for each of you. I know you are tired and weary. I know you are suffering. I hold you up in the name of Jesus and ask for his soothing touch to comfort you. I pray all your needs met in the name of Jesus. Thank you.