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“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching       ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…”                    (2 Timothy 4:3)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, respectively, both passed away on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  Both men had been central in the drafting of the historic document in 1776.  Twenty years later, Adams defeated Jefferson in the presidential election, but Jefferson became vice president because, at that time, the office was filled by the candidate who finished second. In 1800, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans defeated the Federalist party of Adams and Hamilton, and Adams retired to his estate. Their contrasting political views caused them to develop an intense rivalry, and the two did not speak for well over a decade.  By 1812 they started corresponding and eventually mailed more than 185 letters, regarded as masterpieces of American enlightenment. Over the next few years, a tenderness crept back into the founders’ relationship. As he grew older, Jefferson wrote: “Crippled wrists and fingers make writing slow and laborious. But while writing to you, I lose the sense of these things, in the recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made happiness out of everything.”  By remarkable coincidence, Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the semicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” though his old friend and political adversary had died a few hours before. At the time of his death, Jefferson was 83, while Adams had turned 90 the year before. Though both were not well, their deaths came as a surprise to many.

In those days, men like Adams and Jefferson were viewed as true patriots and noted members of the clergy as well as prominent politicians felt that their same-day passing was more than a coincidence. Then there was a spirit that America and its people were exceptionally blessed by God. Gifts like theirs, according to Daniel Webster, were “proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care.” While eulogizing these men, he said: “Adams and Jefferson are no more. On our 50th anniversary, the great day of national jubilee, in the very hour of public rejoicing, in the midst of echoing and re-echoing voices of thanksgiving, while their own names were on all tongues, they took their flight together to the world of spirits.” In those young days of a new nation, there was a lot of pride in the country. Today, not so much. A Gallup poll taken in June, 2018 shows a record low percentage of Americans identifying as “extremely proud” of their nationality, lower than at any other time in the prior 18 years that the group had conducted the poll.  This significant decline in the poll numbers is anything but inspiring news about the country’s patriotism, thereby painting a dismal picture of our nation.

The same can be said for Christianity and the commitment of believers to their faith. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless” (Matthew 5:13). The message is similar in the prophecy of John where Jesus provides this revelation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). At times through our own selfish interests, we lose perspective that we were meant to serve Him. It’s okay to be free to be who you are, but at the same time we must never forget where we came from. There is a trend these days to ignore or erase history in order to somehow satisfy our own passions. For when we decide to follow the lessons of false teachers, we often do so merely to validate the hollowness of our own existence. Jesus is calling us to be hot or to be cold. When we are just sitting on the fence, we neither quench the thirst of those who are lost nor soothe the souls of a hurting world. Our founding fathers would remind us, as did the great apostle, that we should “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Most times, however, we are neither good patriots or model Christians.  Yet we are still being called to be both.

REFLECTION:  Have you lost your saltiness as a follower of Jesus? What steps do you need to take to revitalize your zest? In what ways do you value the lessons of scripture and of history and apply them in your life? How might you mentor others who have become self-centered regarding historical perspectives?


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