I was convicted to the depths of my soul as I sat at lunch with Joe Salcido, dynamic young pastor in El Paso, Texas, as he related compelling stories from this “Tale of Two Cities.” I was convicted by the haunting question of whether I have the courage to walk the footsteps of fellow pastors right across the river in Juarez, Mexico.
He shared about meetings where 50 pastors of many denominations in that bullet-ridden city would meet for prayer, get down on their faces to cry out to God – and then get up and go out on the streets to face the evil.
He told about a pastor’s son who had rejoiced over the miraculous healing of his infant son in answer to his prayers – then months later was gunned down in his car with his son and wife right next to him.
Those pastors aren’t worried about losing their nonprofit status by “being political”; they are literally putting their lives on the line every day to preach the transforming word of God’s truth. They aren’t hiding in their stained-glass towers, safe from the battles around them.
They are out facing the physical and spiritual weapons of the enemy.
The horrific murder that took place this week on Falcon Lake, Texas, in the shooting of David Hartley as he and his wife jet skied, again turned the eyes of our nation to the condition of the border. A realization dawned on me as I stood last night looking across the river at the mass of lights in Juarez that the battle is not about an invisible border but very visible foundations.
Mexico is in a war far beyond the brutality of the drug cartels, and while theirs is more advanced in degree – so are we. A snapshot of the real war is seen in the “rest of the violence story” shared by the Mexican pastors, that many of the wanton killings – including that of the pastor’s son – are the result of the moral anarchy that now reigns. The cartels’ “purpose driven” violence has given cover and rise to those who simply use it to steal, kill and destroy.
Sound familiar? Most Christian are familiar with that concept and who it describes:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
Is Mexico’s real problem with the drug cartels and rampant corruption in government? Of course not. Those are symptoms, just as the new despotism represented in our own current government is a symptom.
The spiritual, moral, cultural and political condition of a nation will be determined by whether We the People have our personal foundations built upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ and are truly followers in thought, word and deed. I challenge those of you who sneer at that premise to find one example anywhere in the world today in which other major religions, secularism or godless atheism produce anything other than the same fruits dominant across our southern border.
In contrast, the veil of God’s hand of blessing and protection that has brought our nation through many dark hours even in spite of our many sins, flaws and weaknesses is the only explanation for the blessings we are in peril of throwing away. However it is not the first time we have been careless.
Jonathan Edwards, one of God’s chief instruments of the renewal we call the First Great Awakening was grieved at the sinful, selfish and ungodly condition of the American people in his time. As he and others like George Whitfield faithfully and boldly preached messages like the immortal “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” transformation took place. Edwards wrote:
This work of God, as it was carried on and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town, so that in the spring and summer following, Anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God. It never was so full of love, nor so full of joy … there were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on the account of salvation’s being brought unto them, parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. (“American Quotations,” Federer)
Lives changed from the inside out, families and marriages renewed, towns transformed by the changed lives, jails and taverns emptied. That rebirth that swept the colonies in the 1730s did foundation repair that was vital in bringing us into existence as these United States.
The courage of pastors like these in Juarez and in every country where Christians are persecuted, oppressed, tortured, imprisoned and murdered should bring every pastor in the United States to a stark reality.
If we do not stand now, boldly and fearlessly when there is no cost – let me repeat, no cost – we may face a day like our brothers across the border when our failure to be faithful with the word and with our ballots will result in proliferation of bullets.