Steve Schonberg, Elder
It is easy for me to have a rather passive view of the history of Christianity in our nation. I tend to think of our history as starting with a strong Christian foundation which gradually deteriorated over time. When I recently had the opportunity to tour the History of Evangelism in America exhibit at the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton College Campus, I realized how wrong my perspective was.
It is rather a history of ebbs and flows from one generation or time period to another as various people answered God’s call to preach the gospel and pray. For example, Yale University was founded at the beginning of the 18th century as a Christian answer to the perceived liberalism of Harvard. By the late 1700’s there were almost no professing Christians in attendance. In fact, in the freshman classes of 1795 and 1796 there was a total of one believer. A few years later, through the preaching and leadership of the college president, about 50% of the student body had come to Christ.
What does this have to do with today’s chapters? The few Jewish descendants who made the perilous and courageous trek back to Palestine in Nehemiah’s day were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of a generation that had become so corrupt that God needed to completely destroy it. They returned to their ancestral land, rebuilt their homes, the temple, the fortified city of Jerusalem, and worshiped the one true God according to his directives from many centuries earlier.
What is the lesson for us? It is simply that each one of us, no matter our Christian heritage or lack thereof, is in a unique position and circumstance. We can either press forward and experience for ourselves God’s reality or alternatively, we can try to ride along on someone else’s faith and limit our experience of God to the tales of others. Our choices determine our destiny, directly affect those around us, and ultimately influence our entire culture, nation, and world.