Ponderings for June 1 2018

We were talking about Saving Private Ryan, the World War II movie directed by Steven Spielberg that wrestles with the tension of saving the one while endangering the many. The final frames propel the viewer forward to the scene of an elderly Ryan (the private who was found and saved at the expense of other soldiers). He is standing among the rows of white crosses in the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, saluting and weeping for his fallen comrades.

Ryan turns to his wife at that moment and asks for her reassurance. “Tell me I’ve led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man,” he asks with tears streaming down his cheeks. If others sacrificed their lives for his, he needs to know that he has earned their sacrifice.

“You are,” Ryan’s wife assures him. And the film fades into patriotic music and somber tones that affirm his goodness and a sense of right.

Now what if that film and that man’s questioning was meant to represent the nation as a whole? What if the reassurance of worthiness and goodness was needed by all of America? To a nation that gave and sacrificed together to fight against the unambiguously diabolical evil of the Nazis, that reassurance must be equally unequivocal and affirmative. “You are” a good man indeed.

But what has become of our nation as it has aged since World War II? Can America still be reassured of her goodness, that she is leading “a good life”?  I am not nearly as confident that those affirming words—“You are”—can be forthcoming in these days. 

Where is the good as it relates to moral standards of sexuality and decency? We are among the top nations for sex trafficking and exploitation of minors. 

Where is the good when racism and racial tensions are at the boiling point? 

Gun violence in schools has become so increasingly and abhorrently common, it may as well be in the student handbook next to where the cafeteria can be found.

Does a good nation separate mothers from their babies and children as they are legally seeking asylum? And then give the glib official explanation that “the kids will be fine and can be put into foster care or whatever”?

Where is the goodness in a people who do not protect the unborn and instead celebrate the allowance of abortions as if they were appendectomies? Mother Teresa’s words should haunt us from her grave: “To me, the nations with legalized abortion are the poorest nations. The greatest destroyer of peace today is the crime against the unborn child.”

“Tell me I’m a good man…”

Sorry for this dirge of bad news. My head is pounding. At Trinity, we are winding down a message series entitled “Stand Firm,” wherein we are regularly reminded that we live in an increasingly dark society. Our calling is certainly to name the darkness for what is and to shine a light of life and goodness wherever we find ourselves. To stand firm must mean that we do not personally compromise, and we become an instrument in Christ’s hand in order to make a difference.

As a church and as individual Christ followers, we need the courage and the concern and the love for the victims in our broken society. We must be willing to act and to invest our lives and resources for the “least of these.” Though our nation as a whole may not deserve the reassurance that it is leading “a good life,” we can still “so let our light shine among people that they see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.” That may be our society’s only chance to be saved.

We have to rise above and be different and do good. Our Christ demands it of us. And our credibility before a watching nation—because is at stake and in question—begs it from us.

Stand Firm!
Pastor Paul