Those two words describe too much of what is happening in our struggling society. We seem to have lost our sense of right and wrong. Witness our skyrocketing prison population, disintegrating homes and violent entertainment fare.
When the noted nineteenth century Frenchman, De Tocqueville, visited here he concluded that the greatness of America was found in the decency and right living of her citizens. Upon arriving home he wrote: “I sought for the greatness of America in her harbors and rivers and fertile fields, and her mines and commerce. It was not there. Not until I went into the churches and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the greatness of her power. America is great because she is good; and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
In contrast, Kenneth Woodman’s article, “What Ever Happened To Sin?” appearing in Newsweek, said “Ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God. Yet the urgent sense of personal sin has all but disappeared in the current upbeat style in American religion.”
While De Tocqueville saw America’s pulpit as flaming sources of righteousness, Woodman sees them falling short in this current crisis, writing: “In earlier eras, ministers regularly exhorted congregations to humbly ‘confess our sins.’ But aging baby boomers who are rushing back to church do not want to hear sermons that might rattle their self-esteem.” He pointed out that even those ministers who speak out against sin usually shake their fists and point their fingers at the world outside rather than at sins of those in the pews so there is little effect on the listeners.
It is one thing to bemoan the sins of society and quite another to face our own.
I’ve often reflected upon the woman in her eighties I heard pray, “Lord, forgive me! I do so many things I used to think were wrong.”
Solomon said: “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
So we’re in real trouble when we don’t know what sin is.
How shall we find out?
The late writer of enduring Christian classics, A. W. Tozer, explained:“As a sailor locates his position on the sea by shooting the sun, so we get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God. We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.”
But how can we look at God?
By rediscovering the Bible and making it the textbook of our lives and our worship…in our homes and churches.
James, the apostle, called the Bible a mirror, into which we can look and see how we measure up to God’s perfect standards (James 1:22-25). Daily trips to that mirror by enough Americans will restore the needed national sense of right, of wrong.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.