Challenge: The Road to Bondage

Rebecca Hagelin
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Posted: Oct 31, 2014 12:01 AM
Challenge: The Road to Bondage

Editor's note: this piece was coauthored by Hagelin's daughter, Kristin Carey. 

Apathy toward indecent, uncivil, and immoral behavior has been the undoing of many a nation throughout history. Nations who replace a relationship with God for secular idols are quickly filled with individuals who are apathetic about how they treat others, and ultimately become nations marred by selfishness and greed. And as Rome proved many years ago, a nation composed of selfish, greedy, immoral individuals cannot stand. History shows us that no enemy was able to defeat ancient Rome; Rome fell from within when it became morally bankrupt. Common decency, civility, and morality are intertwined, and the future of our society depends on them.

Consider the words of Professor Alexander Tyler, an eighteenth-century historian and economist who wrote the following in his central work, The Cycle of Democracy, in 1778:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith,

From spiritual faith to great courage,

From courage to liberty,

From liberty to abundance,

From abundance to complacency,

From complacency to apathy,

From apathy to dependence,

From dependence back into bondage”

That cyclical pattern of redemption and corruption even marked the history of God’s chosen people. Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites repeatedly turned away from God’s way to pursue their own desires. God, through Moses, rescued them from slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea to save them from Pharaoh’s armies, and led them through the wilderness by pillars of fire and cloud. Right after all of those miracles, while Moses was on Mount Sinai speaking face to face with God, the Israelites constructed an idol and decided to worship it rather than the Living God they had been following, and that quickly led them into all other kinds of wild behavior.

In Exodus 32, it says, “The Lord told Moses, ‘Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live!’” (Exodus 32: 7-8).

Moses went back down the mountain to bring the Israelites to repentance and beg God to forgive them. They did repent of their wickedness, and paid a steep price for their sin. Just like the Israelites, we as Americans so easily forget our history. Ours is an apathetic society, to say the least. If our children are to have a future of freedom, it’s going to be up to us to start restoring the very basis of a civil society: love of God and man.

The Hope: Faith in God

Our home church’s mission is “To love God and people above all else.” It was Jesus who said that these are the two greatest commandments.

These two basic principles, if modeled consistently by adults and taught faithfully to our nation’s children, would immediately restore American civility and greatly impact the world. But the popular culture teaches adults and children to do neither.

It’s no longer acceptable to invoke the name of God in a school setting or to pray for His guidance and blessings. And the price of this secularization of the culture has been a loss of civility and decency.

Brad Bright, author of God is the Issue, explains how America has lost its moral consensus in the school setting and the culture at large: “We Americans pretend that God is irrelevant to education, but then we act shocked when our children behave as if there really is no God. If we want children to behave as though God exists, we must teach them that he does. If they do not believe it, they will not act like it. It is that simple.” Brad continues, “Morality is merely a fairy tale unless a rational God exists. Teaching values apart from God is like explaining how a light bulb works without ever mentioning electricity, or talking about how the automobile runs but never referring to the internal combustion engine. Talking about values and morality is meaningless if divorced from their source. If there is no God, we are simply arguing about conflicting preferences, not right and wrong, not good and evil. Right and wrong cease to exist the moment God is removed from the equation.”

The most important issues to consider in each of our lives are: In what do I believe? In whom do I put my trust? Everything springs from the answers to those questions. What we view as indecent; what we deem acceptable; how we treat other people; how we raise children. The list is endless.

No, you don’t have to embark on a crusade to save the whole country. But by making the decision to instill in your own family basic principles of faith, morality, decency and civility, you will also be protecting your family from the apathy and selfishness that threaten our nation’s very existence.

Romans 12:9-13 is a beautiful guideline for right living. It says:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Though it sounds good, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a tall order. That kind of living is simply impossible apart from God working in our lives through faith.

The famous hymn, Come, Thou Fount, says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” The author, Robert Robinson, knew on a personal level the same truth that the Israelites learned as a nation: It is so easy to get distracted. We are inclined to depart from the road of faith. And when we do, the road we follow leads us to the dark corners of ourselves where selfishness infects our hearts and destroys our relationships with God and others.

May our daily prayer echo Robinson’s plea expressed in that beautiful hymn:

“O to grace how great a debtor

daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

bind my wandering heart to Thee.”