The thin line of normal.
There was a time when life norms were more broadly applied. Go with me to childhood in the 1950's. Yes, it was a simpler, less arbitrary America. What was considered normal then crossed most social and cultural boundaries. Take the typical public school day, for example. Every class day began with students placing hands over hearts and repeating the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. Then we closed our eyes for prayer, usually led by the school principal over a loud speaker system. That was normal for most public school children until a series of Supreme Court rulings forbidding such in 1962. It is not normal today, by any means.
Or, note normal Sundays in America until most blue laws were abolished by state and local governments. Surely, every citizen didn't go to church on Sundays. But, most retail businesses were closed in long standing reverence for a day of worship. Though most Sunday sales prohibitions were religious in origin, some guaranteed a day off for several categories of workers, notably those in postal service. While the Supreme Court has long given judicial approval of blue laws in protection of religious freedoms, most have been abolished except for a few states which still prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. The normal Sunday in those days was quieter, calmer, and less active. There was one source of conflict in those normal Sundays, however. Most of our parent's had arguments over where we were going to eat our after-church meal. Go figure. Of course, Sunday in the twenty-first century is pretty much like any other day. Another change in what has become normal for us boomers.
The Christian community has been relatively silent about the downward slope of these norms. There's been an anti-Christian leaning in our cultural standards for more than a generation and these changes are perhaps the result. Our silence about them is really about what I call the thin line of normal. This thin line, barely detectable, is the marker between our Christian commitments and the expectation that we will be submitted to and obedient to the governing authorities. Romans 13: 1-7 is strong Bible teaching regarding the Christian relationship to governmental authority. Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States, is another element of that thin line. People of faith are guaranteed their right of religious preference and expression. Romans 13 demands our subjection to government. We usually accept shifts in what is considered normal in our lives as honoring Romans 13. On election day, "we the people" can vote our approval or rejection of governmental intrusion of our religious liberties. The problem is, only 58.1% of eligible Americans voters went to the polls in 2016. Sad.
The new normal after Covid-19 may witness continued further declines in Christian practice and influence. That thin line of normal should be challenged by our obedience to biblical guidance---
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable
Romans 12: 2, ESV
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If
I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1: 10, ESV
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching
ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will
turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4: 3-4, ESV
Wisdom is he discipline of the day for people with a Christian worldview. The Christian leadership and community must exercise genuine biblical wisdom when we stand at the thin line of normal. Only wisdom can differentiate whether we must obey the dictates of our faith or submit to further government intrusion in matters of faith. If we're running short in that department, we should join James---
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without
reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one
who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that
person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-
minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1: 5-8, ESV
Pray that leaders on both sides of that thin line will give us stable and focused voices in these challenging times. Let us ask God for the wisdom to navigate the thin line of any new normal in the days ahead.
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