America is in pain. I don’t need to detail it here, but these are desperate times.
Everyone agrees that what happened to George Floyd was an evil act that demands justice. Peacefully protesting and mourning his death are right and good.
And everyone agrees that rioting and looting cities is criminal and must be stopped.
Wrongs and evil have been done. What do we do about it? How do we recover?
There are several recovery plans currently being debated. The options include: Riot and loot cities. Defund and even disband police departments. Teach and promote ideologies that cast blame and shame. Declare America “a racist nation from its founding” and demand that it must be fundamentally changed.
I am holding out the “recommit yourself to God” plan for every individual in the country. This plan involves loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.
It acknowledges that all people are created in the image of God and are of sacred worth no matter what their skin color. Red and yellow, black and white, blue and brown, purple with pink polka dots — they are precious in His sight.
This is not a new recovery plan. This plan has been around a long time. This recovery plan actually is the inspiration for the American Covenant that holds us together.
I do not believe America needs to be fundamentally changed. I believe the values and ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are exactly what we need now more than ever.
To be an American is to live in covenant with one another. A covenant states how we are going to live together.
The covenant God makes with Israel is the Ten Commandments. It begins, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me,” etc.
The American Covenant, our Constitution, begins: “We the People of the United States.” We are making this covenant with one another. All of us have an equal responsibility in making life together work.
It doesn’t say, the president and the people, or the Congress and the people, the Washington establishment and the people or the ivory tower elites and the people. It says, “We, the People” in big, bold, beautiful letters.
It is what makes us citizens and not subjects.
And then it declares the purpose of the covenant that we make with each other. How “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” we “do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”
“Do ordain” — it is a covenant, a sacred obligation that we have with each other. This is what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was so effective at calling us back to.
When was the last time you read the Constitution or the amendments? Do you realize why we have amendments? Because we keep falling down and have to be called back to the ideals and values to which we have committed ourselves.
Ideals and values like: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Adults understand that all human beings fail at times to live up to the ideals we profess. We don’t always get it right. Now is one of those times.
But that does not make the ideals and values worthless or in need of being thrown out. What makes America great and unique is that we can get back up and try again.
Our covenant is good, but we must recommit ourselves to it. None of us is perfect. We must forgive each other our past sins, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
That doesn’t mean we forget or pretend they didn’t happen. We don’t rewrite history.
But it does mean we don’t define others by their mistakes and sins. And we don’t define ourselves by the sins others have done to us. Instead, we are Americans and we press on to attain the call of being citizens in a country with a covenant that declares we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
There are 27 amendments to our covenant because we keep falling down, but getting back up. Each of those amendments is us, in big and small ways, walking the road to recovery, to form a more perfect union.
The founders understood human nature and knew we were going to fall down, so they provided a way to get back up. They put the first 10 in there before we even got started.
Our biggest fall was the Civil War, but we got back up with amendments 13, 14 and 15 to prohibit slavery, grant citizenship and due process, and guarantee the right of citizens to vote regardless of race or color.
We walked a little more, fell down, but got back up with the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
We fall down so much, we even had to amend our amendments. Do you know what the 18th amendment is? Prohibition — we outlawed alcohol. Do you know what the 21st amendment is? The repeal of the 18th amendment.
Friends, we are not perfect, but this is our true heritage: We fall down and by the grace and power of God we get back up, striving to live out these values and ideals passed down to us.
And where do these values and ideals come from? It has been noted by philosophers that no other religion, no other worldview except the Judeo-Christian worldview, could produce the founding documents of America.
George Washington in his farewell address said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would a man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness.”
Right now, we are being presented with different roads for recovery. This whole covenant (the founders called it an experiment in self-government) only works as we recommit ourselves to God and to the ideals and values that come from Him, enshrined in our covenant with one another.
Politicians and political parties won’t make it happen. Getting rid of police departments, rioting, kneeling during the national anthem or adopting left or right ideologies can’t dispel the hatred and anger, suspicion and mistrust that so many Americans feel right now. They only increase the hostilities.
None of those things can help us get back up. But God can.
James 4:8 declares, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” His presence is so desperately needed. In His presence there is forgiveness, healing, restoration, love, peace, unity and life.
When we cast God out of the public life of our nation, those things go with Him. It is time we put our national motto, “In God We Trust,” into practice.
We have fallen down. But with humility and the grace of God, we can get back up.
The only way to recover, the only way to continue as a free nation, is to recommit ourselves to Him. And that begins with you and me today.