What is the “state of the union”—as God sees it?

A few weeks from now a state-of-the-union message will be presented to Congress and to the American people. It will deal with domestic and foreign problems, war and peace, the economic structure of the country, the abounding social ills.

Political values and implications will probably be stressed, and outlines of legislation needed to accomplish changes and reforms will be presented. Material and secular problems and suggested solutions will dominate the message. All this is a part of the administration of a great democracy.

However, Christians must consider the state of the union, not from the human standpoint alone, but from God’s. His evaluation, the standards of which are revealed in Scripture, will take into account all those things in which we have sinned and come short of his glory.

The Old Testament prophets, inspired by the Holy Spirit, looked beneath the surface of national life to find the things that mar and destroy a nation. In their messages we see God’s diagnosis of sin, his hatred of it, and the certainty of judgment, all coupled with his yearning love for a wayward people and appeals to return to him and live.

The state of politics always seems confused. The tendency to “give the people what they want” is ever present, regardless of fiscal stability or moral rightness. In fact—and we must face it—some of the great projects now envisoned entail the spending of our grandchildren’s money, and are perhaps designed to win votes more than anything else. This form of bribery, or buying of votes, proves a temptation to politicians of every party, as well as to the people.

One of the greatest menaces of national stability is the fostering of the idea that the government owes everyone a living. Unquestionably the government owes every citizen freedom of opportunity, and this entails freedom from every form of discrimination. But in addition, individual initiative must be protected and promoted if our people are to be truly blessed.

The state of the union is affected by the soundness of our economy. Many citizens are rightly concerned about a tendency to appropriate and spend staggering sums without compensating income. This inevitably leads to inflation, which affects everyone, particularly those who are dependent on the savings of the past.

Primary considerations in any assessment of the state of the union are the growing tensions within the social order and the feeling of some that the social structure can be improved without change in the hearts of those who make up society. Many in the Church have been beguiled into believing this fallacy and are thus adding to the confusion of an already confused generation.

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The state of the union is also in jeopardy because the basic concept of law and order has been undermined by willful activists who try to settle social problems in the streets. Their “peaceful” demonstrations too easily become violent and riot-like.

Those responsible for maintaining law and order have become targets of vilification and abuse. And often the law-breakers they apprehend either are released or are “punished” only by having to pay a piddling fine. A generation has grown up without knowing the wholesome discipline of the Bible—“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Now, when confronted with restraint by those responsible for law enforcement, many cry out, “Police brutality!,” and many social “do-gooders” join them in their protests. What amazes me is the police restraint exercised in the face of violence and open face defiance.

The serious state of the union is reflected in the failure of the courts to enforce existing laws and the devious means used to thwart justice. There is a verse in the Bible that describes the situation perfectly: “Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). By a strange philosophy on the part of some sworn to maintain justice, the criminal is now given every advantage while the victim is often twice a victim—once at the hands of the criminal and again at the hands of the courts.

The state of the union is woefully evident in the growth and exploitation of lust under the guise of art and literature. Books, plays, and movies portray and often make attractive the vilest acts of which man is capable. No nation can long exist if such evil goes unrestrained.

Above all else, the state of the nation is reflected in the nation’s spiritual life, or lack of it. We have received the blessings of a godly ancestry, but the momentum of this is largely spent. The open immorality that flourishes on every side belies the widespread existence of spiritual convictions, on which alone the nation or the individual is secure.

On every hand men speak of the deceased influence of the Church. Some attribute this to lack of “involvement” in the social order. Others feel that the message of the Church has been watered down so that the secular needs of society are given priority over men’s need of Christ as Saviour from sin.

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Within the Church there are deep cleavages—loveless pharisaism and hard orthodoxy on the one side, and sophisticated sadduceeism with rank unbelief on the other. In too many cases the battle has been waged in the strength of the flesh, without compassion and reliance on the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit, by which alone such problems can be resolved. The Church too often tries to solve spiritual problems by secular means.

This brings us to the source of hope, the way by which God can restore sinning men and nations. It is no platitude to assert that God has the answer. He has the only answer. Man is both stupid and blind if he fails to realize that for God there are no insoluble problems; he is hindered only by man’s perverse unwillingness to turn problems over to him.

The Bible states the nature of good and evil, of right and wrong. It lays down the principles by which men and nations are to live, and clearly states the immediate and ultimate penalties of those who go their own way, rather than God’s.

But the Bible does more than this. It reveals the One who came to make all things right through redemption and regeneration. It reveals the simplicity of God’s plan for making new men out of old, changing them into the image of his Son. It states in the clearest way possible what a man’s duty to God and his fellow man is, and reveals the source of power by which men and nations can obey and please him.

The state of the union is not good. But God can change the lives of countless individuals and through them bring glory to himself in the land.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ—preached, believed, and obeyed—can change the state of the union. It is our only hope.

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