Woe Unto The World

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 1, 2015 2 comments

by Michael Homula

Would you read these verses from Romans 1:18-21 with me, and really think on them in view of the days we live in?

As I spent time in prayer and journaling in preparation to write this week, I struggled mightily. I ended up writing something because I had a deadline to meet. That morning I began to sense the Holy Spirit working and redirecting my path relative to this post. I just had to write something else, even if that meant missing the deadline.

I am going to diverge a bit from Gettysburg and focus on the American Civil War more broadly. Specifically, I want to look at that tragedy of our nation’s history to illustrate these verses from Romans, discuss what I believe ultimately brought on the war and challenge us all for living as Christ followers in a culture in opposition to God.

The Civil War was God’s judgment and wrath on our nation for the sin of human chattel slavery. I know that is a bold statement and I am sure some of you may disagree, but I firmly believe it to be true.

As a nation (North and South mind you), having accepted and embraced human slavery, we had the blood of human beings on our hands. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that black people, both the slave and the free, were not protected by the Constitution and were not U.S. citizens - denying them personhood. Justice Taney, writing the majority opinion said that the “negroes are… beings of an inferior order… so far inferior that they have no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

This Supreme Court decision, which reeks and drips with the same sinful disrespect for God’s people as the Roe v. Wade decision, was in direct conflict with the Bible and God’s plan for the human beings He created in His image. Human chattel slavery in America was the creation of man’s wickedness, his godlessness, and though we were a nation that claimed to know God, our hearts were darkened with our national sin of slavery. We were a nation deserving of the wrath of God.

President Abraham Lincoln saw the Civil War this way. We know this from his personal writing but it is even more noticeable in two of his most public actions, his Proclamation of National Fasting and Prayer and his Second Inaugural Address.

The words of Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address are some of the finest ever spoken by a human being. Interestingly, and a topic for another post, in his first Inaugural of 1861 he mentions God, Jesus, or quotes words from the Bible only 3 times in a speech that covers 3,699 words. But, in his second inaugural address, in a speech that spans a mere 702 words, he mentions God, Jesus, or words from the Bible 67 times. One of England’s leaders of this time said, “His Second Inaugural Address is not only the most spiritual speech ever given by any statesman in the world. In my opinion, it is a far better sermon than most any I have ever heard preached in a pulpit.”

Let’s take a look at a portion of the address that relates to our conversation today [the insertion of scripture references is mine]:

Both sides read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces [Genesis 3:19]; but let us judge not that we be not judged [Matthew 7:1]. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” [Matthew 18:7] If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” [Psalm 19:9] With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God give us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

You may need to go back and read that again because it is FULL of important insight. I know I can’t stop reading it and I have read it thousands of times. It is powerful, poignant and fully cognizant that the bloodshed of the Civil War was God’s wrath on our nation for the two hundred and fifty years of slavery: “…until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword…” Lincoln plainly says that, “…slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come…” and that, “…He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came…”.

The Civil War was God’s wrath and judgment for the sin of human slavery.

Now, as then, we have invited God’s displeasure with us on a personal and national level. Abortion, materialism, sexual immorality, and choosing to put other gods before the Lord, are inviting His wrath. In fact, the issue of slavery as practiced in the 1800’s parallels abortion in almost every way.

The church in the time of slavery could have stopped the deepening vortex that drew us into the bloodiest war in US History. The church, who possessed the Biblical and moral mandate to guide the nation toward peacefully ending slavery, failed to use their position to that end.

History is made primarily by a committed minority, like Christian abolitionists who stood opposed to slavery on Biblical grounds alone, and their impact on the rest of the people who were drifting with the stream of cultural conformity. Today, instead of mirroring the abolitionists’ deep commitment, Christians are largely seen as indecisive, foolish, and weak when we should be meek, united, and powerful with God.

So, we once again find ourselves in a vortex. Our zeal to “win others for Christ” ahead of personal and corporate holiness is distracting us from engaging our culture on Biblical ground. We must develop our holiness, our fear of God and a totally sold out commitment to God's commands to show others, especially other Christians, how to live for Christ in a godless and sinful culture.

We are waging a war against political powers in a political fashion using political weapons. That is not God's instruction to us. He commands us to do His will, putting His issues first, whatever the cost. The results are up to Him.

We alienate pro-abortion, homosexual, and other individuals when they see our war being waged in the political realm rather than in the spiritual realm that God directed us to pursue. The weapon God gave us is not legislation but, rather, moral suasion. Those who oppose God and His ways are not our enemies. No, they are deceived and need God's love as much as we do. We must never be silent regarding sin, but we must not engage our culture with mere politics and policy, especially when that may compromise God's values. Standing firm with God and divorcing ourselves from man-centered political power thinking becomes a great witness to our culture, as our abolitionist brothers and sisters did during the time of slavery.

Christians are quickly becoming a minority as we lose our saltiness. What happens in America with abortion, materialism, sexual immorality and all the other sins of our nation is NOT dependent on politicians. It is not dependent on the Supreme Court. It is not dependent on the government.

It is dependent on those who follow Jesus.

The Lord gave Christ followers the mandate to lead on these issues of social and moral justice and we must not surrender that mandate to the government or anyone else. We must not surrender our God given responsibility to be salt and light.

I have read thousands of stories about Abraham Lincoln, read his complete speeches and writings many times and read numbers of biographies. For this post I used information from the following materials and sources:

Abraham Lincoln the Christian, William Jackson Johnstone.
From the Flag to the Cross, Amos Stevens Billingsly
Broken Churches, Broken Nation, C.C. Goen
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington – sent me copies of historical documents and affidavits from their archives.


Steve Risner said...

Excellent blog, Michael. I have heard many say over the years that the nation is going to hell--that society is depraved and getting worse. They claim this is rotting away at the Church. I believe, as it seems you may as well, that the nation does not bring the Church down, but the Church, through its apathy, laziness, idleness, and idolatry, have brought the nation down. What a great writing!

Anonymous said...

Steve, thanks for commenting. I completely agree with your statement. While the nation is attacking Christianity and Christians it is largely due to the lukewarm attitude of Christ followers. If those who claim to follow Christ and be on guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong and do everything in love (1 Cor. 16:13-14) then much would change.