This morning I was shown a sample of the questions to be asked of people applying for British citizenship to check whether or not they understand what it means to be British. I must take a look at the full document very soon, but as I read this article two thoughts passed through my mind.
Firstly, there was an uncomfortable percentage of the questions that I myself couldn’t answer with any confidence. Secondly, if this selection of petty detail about Britain in any way defines the identity of our nation then may God help and forgive us.
We have lost our Christian identity, at least in the minds of our political and bureaucratic leadership. It may not yet be true among the bulk of the adult population aged over fifty, but the two generations under that age have been brought up deliberately to be godless. The Bible is virtually eliminated from most schools and parents have neglected to teach their children even what little they themselves know about God while most churches have sat quietly on the sidelines allowing it to happen. May God forgive us for our decades of timidity.
Is this too pessimistic a picture? As the SASRA speaker at our church supper said tonight, to the majority of the teenage soldiers with whom he works “Genesis is a pop group, Sin plays an instrument, and Grace is a vocalist.” There is a massive ignorance of even the foundational truths on which our civilisation, and that of Europe as a whole, was built for more than fifteen hundred years.
The Old Testament proverb tells us, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Righteousness? But surely, no-one today holds to the old fashioned ideas of right and wrong, do they? Sadly, few do! Morality is invented and reinvented according to populist media trends and campaigns with no reference to the God of heaven.
Which brings me to today’s Psalm, 80:19. Actually, similar words occur four times in the psalm:
“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved.”
The poet’s nation was in a mess. Indeed, it was under the judgement of God for its turning away from Him to worship false idols. Today our nation’s idols are pleasure, wealth and self. May God forgive us and shine upon us once again! May he send spiritual revival to our land! May he send salvation! As Graham Kendrick’s hymn puts it:
“Shine, Jesus, shine,
Fill this land with the Father’s glory;
Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow,
Flood the nations with grace and mercy,
Send forth your word, Lord, and let there be light.”