One thing that I have heard over and over again is that America is a “Christian” nation.  What does that mean?  How is it possible for an entire nation to be “Christian”?  Does the nation as a whole repent of it’s sins and put it’s faith in Jesus?  Surely all the individuals in a particular nation can, but does that make it a Christian nation?  What church would this nation go to?  I can’t imagine a building big enough for the entire nation to sit in pew on a Sunday morning.

Christianity is the majority religion in the United States, that is for sure.  However, I’m not so sure it qualifies as a Christian nation.  The statistics show that only about 20% of the population attend worship on a given Sunday morning.  Given that over 75% (it may even be in the 80-85% range) proclaim to be Christian, that’s not a good number.  Do these people claim to be Christian because they live in America and America is a “Christian” nation?  There seems to be some faulty logic going on if this is the case.

I don’t believe a nation can be Christian any more than a house can be.  The nation is not an entity that can claim such allegiances.  Were the founding fathers people of faith?  Yes, many of them were.  New Harmony, Indiana was founded by a group of separatists from the German Lutheran Church.  Certainly, there are some influences there, but that doesn’t make the entire town part of the Harmonie Society.

I think this is what John the Baptist is getting at in today’s reading from Luke 3.  Here’s what he says…

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits in keeping with repentance and do not say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:7-8, ESV).

The people of Israel thought that they were doing all right simple because they were the people of Israel.  We know that wasn’t the case, though, don’t we?  Sometimes, ancestral arrogance can get in the way of truly dedicating ourselves to our faith.  We think that we’re all right because our parents and grandparents led the way before us.  In reality, while we don’t walk it alone, we all walk our own path on this journey of faith.  The community of faith is important, and we need to be part of a community of faith, but we can’t rely on that community’s faith as our own.

I’ve heard people say, “Well, I’m a Christian.  I go to church every Sunday.”  Sitting in a pew every Sunday doesn’t make one a Christian any more than sitting in a garage would make one a car.  See what John says there?  “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.”  How does your life look?  Does it reflect the life of one who has repented and put his/her faith in Jesus?  How we live matters.

So, what does your life look like?  Does it look like a life that is directed by and given over to God?  Don’t rely on your location or your heritage for your faith.  Be informed from them, celebrate them, allow them to shape you, but don’t assume that they are a substitute for your own faith.

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