Every day when he went to the Oval Office, President Reagan would be dressed in a business suit. Whether or not he had appointments with other officials, he wanted to show respect for the office he held. So he wore a suit. He brought honor and dignity to the Presidency and held in esteem America’s history, institutions, and people.
Part of the outrage in response to Bill Clinton’s affair in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky was that the President had disgraced his honored position and the room that other Presidents had held in high regard. Those of us who knew of the involvement that Bill and Hillary had with the 60’s radicals and their disdain for traditional America wondered if he intentionally acted when and where he did to show disrespect for what our nation had been.
Our current President has bowed before foreign powers, something that also caused those of us with memories that predate cell phones and the internet to wonder. What happened to the concept that Americans are a free people who bow to no one? The American Revolution had a slogan which affirmed that freedom. “No king but King Jesus!” No American, whether President or common worker, should feel compelled to bow to any man. Like Mordecai who stood while Haman demanded genuflection, the American citizen need bow to none but the true God.
But America has been “fundamentally transformed.” These things are almost meaningless in current American culture and ethos. Dignity is reserved for physician assisted suicide, and honor is reserved for people who come out of the closet to show how brave they are in their alternative lifestyles.
This brings me to a consideration of the current Presidential race. Which of the candidates of the major parties exemplifies dignity and honor? St. Louis Pastor Rick Jones noted this: “I expected that the last month of our national campaign would be graphic. I did not expect that it would be pornographic.”
There is no question that the sleaze factor has overtaken policy and substance in the news cycles covering the campaigns of the two office seekers. Which is likely why popular evangelical preacher John Piper has called for both of them to drop out of the race. “Of course, Trump should step down…So should Hillary. That is what ‘unqualified’ mean. It’s never been a question.”
If honor and dignity were important to the American people, neither of these two aspirants would be anywhere near being a candidate. But lying, boastfulness, greed, avarice, filthy talk, adultery, fornication, and other obvious indulgences have not been disqualifiers in this fundamentally transformed nation. What we as a people allow in ourselves will be tolerated in those we choose as leaders.
Two times Jeremiah said this of a people who had lost their moral way. “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD” (Jer. 6:15, 8:12).
Where is the shame…
When people appear in public with swimwear that is far less modest than their underwear?
When TV game shows openly talk about what goes on in the privacy of bedrooms?
When popular music is full of descriptions of things which in a sane world would be reserved for only a husband and a wife?
When foul language is so prevalent that virtually everyone hears four-letter words on a regular basis?
When people consider that lying is acceptable in many instances and most people surveyed in studies admitted to lying regularly?
When businesses write in to their budgets the losses to thievery by employees as well as customers?
When movies are filled with violence, promiscuity, and gore and are attended by most people (including professing Christians)?
When good is called evil and evil is called good?
Paul warned of such things. “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18,19).
Are people ashamed of these things? No, they laugh at them and mock those who would raise a voice of protest.
But there is shame. It has not gone away. It has been misplaced. Did the prodigal son feel shame while he was wasting his substance with riotous living? He was having too good a time to be ashamed. But what of his father? There you find shame. “He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach” (Pr. 19:26). His son “was dead” and the old man was at home with his thoughts and broken heart.
Consider Mary. Blessed above all other women and with gratitude and praise she brought her innocent child to the temple. There she was met by old Simeon who with one sentence put a cloud over her life. “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Lk. 2:35a). When would that be? Years later she stood weeping at the foot of the cross where her son was put to shame. A sword in the heart!
George Bennard wrote that the cross is an emblem of shame. The shame was on Jesus, the sinless Son of God, hanging naked in front of a gaping world. He was mocked and spit upon and reviled. Why? Because sinful man has no shame. Sinful man has so lost his honor and dignity that he will allow the innocent God-man to die for him. The sinner does not feel shame. But the righteous do.
The prophetic vision found the prophet in the city with the instruction to put a mark on those who would sigh and cry for abominations. They felt the shame of what was surely a harbinger of destruction to come.
Make note of this. Abominable behavior will not go unpunished. Listen the words of Jesus. “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). The one who is not clothed with righteousness will be shamed. Judgment is sure. Sin will be outed. What is done in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Even the most crass, brazen sinner will be brought to shame. And it’s not “karma.” It’s God’s judgment.
The truth is that America has lost its dignity and honor. When this nation elects its next President, it will have promoted a leader who brings disgrace to the Office.
But there is Sunday. Shame can be turned to glory. The Lamb of God, who in shame had been naked on the cross, now rose from the dead in splendor and adorned in shining garments. Mary’s soul was relieved of the sword. The shame was on the captives that Jesus led as a train of defeated foes, openly showing in the heavenly places that He had conquered them. The old man looked afar off and saw a familiar figure. It was the prodigal, with his head bowed and no sign of arrogance in his returning steps. But for the father the shame was gone. “My son which was dead is alive again!”
There is only one way for America to lose its shame. That is for it to come back to the Father’s house. God makes this promise:
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jer. 18:7,8).
Who is to lead in this turning? The church. God’s people. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). There is no substitute. With a revived church, America can be great again. Otherwise, it’s a disgrace.