Thus says the Lord:
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.1
From the Puritans of New England to the Quakers of Pennsylvania to the Methodists of Virginia and the Carolinas, America has always been built on religious principles first and political principles second. I cannot attempt to make the full case here, as it is beyond the scope of this post, but it will come in the future.
The case here is this: we have forgotten our first love. Being deceived into thinking that change and reformation must happen from the top down, we’ve abandoned helping the poor and needy for the sake of supporting our political candidates. Blinded by Satan’s sophistry, we mistakenly think we are better than others. We’ve traded our savior’s model of discipleship–small, personal, and loving–for the large-scale, mass-produced “discipleship” of organizations and political parties.
We (Christians in America) often cry for reformation, for a return to Biblical principles and morality, but instead of being the change we want to see we vote for the Republican party and expect someone else to be the change. We’ve forgotten where this reformation must first begin–in our hearts. I believe God’s word to America right now is Isaiah 58. Do you want to repair the breach? Then “loose the bonds of wickedness, and undo the straps of the yoke to let the oppressed go free”! Do you want to rebuild the ancient ruins? Then “share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house”! Do you want light to shine in darkness? Then “pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desires of the afflicted”!
Do not mistake me, I am in no way advocating a separatists mentality where Christian take no part in Media, Politics, or Education, but I am suggesting we re-evaluate our priorities. We need to stop being like the disciples and Zealots who thought the Messiah would bring the kingdom through political means.
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.2
The Kingdom of Heaven is about bringing heaven to earth. We accomplish it through destroying the strongholds that set themselves up against the knowledge of Christ, offering ourselves up as living sacrifices, transforming ourselves by the renewing of our mind, ceasing to conform to this world, and most importantly–loving God and our neighbor as ourselves.
This love doesn’t have to be grand. Currently, the expectations are so low that a simple gesture of kindness will astound. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Donate your children’s old clothes to a local orphanage. Open your home to someone who needs a hot meal and a place to stay. Mow your neighbors lawn. All of these things will show love, if even in the smallest of ways. We need to stop looking for change primarily in Washington and remember that change must happen in us first.