Monthly Archives: January 2010

State of the Union

Wednesday night is usually when I put the finishing touches on each
week’s Blind Faith devotional. This week, my habitual writing time
coincides with the President’s State of the Union address. With a broad
spectrum of crucial issues crying for decisive, positive action, I am
especially drawn to hear what the President has to say.

The U.S. Constitution directs the President to make such a report to
Congress, although it does not specify a time or prescribe a form for the
report. Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution states that the President
“shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the
Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge
necessary and expedient.” While George Washington delivered a speech on the state of the
union to the first Congress, Thomas Jefferson thought a speech was too
regal, like the British monarch’s address to Parliament, so he submitted a
written report. Succeeding presidents continued Jefferson’s practice until
1913, when Woodrow Wilson broke the tradition with an address to a joint
session of Congress. With rare exceptions since, presidents have delivered
State of the Union speeches on the last Wednesday of January each year.

High expectations greet every president’s State of the Union report.
The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows
the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to
Congress. At best, it can be an opportunity for assessing national
challenges and setting inspiring goals and policies for maximizing the
nation’s values. The most effective State of the Union speeches frankly
confront vital issues, count the cost of taking action to deal with vital
concerns, and project hope for improving the quality of life across the
nation. The reports give an annual opportunity to acknowledge failings and
successes in the past and to renew positive commitment to seek a better
future.

If reporting to Congress on the state of the union can be beneficial
for our nation’s health, how much more can an honest assessment of the state
of our union with Christ benefit our spiritual lives. Taking a realistic
look at where we have been, where we need to confess our failings, and how
we can commit ourselves to living more faithfully with God and others is a
practice that can help us to grow in Christ-likeness.

A crucial difference must be maintained between the typical
hyper-politicized national State of the Union address and any application of
the metaphor in our Christian lives. Any examination of our state of
following Jesus must be free of all self-serving “party” loyalty, devoid of
any claims of self-righteousness and blaming of others. We can find the
closest union with Christ when we shed all pretense and allow God to guide
our evaluation. God is certainly the most competent counselor we can
consult in making our spiritual assessment. We can begin as the Psalmist
prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious
thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the
way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24 NIV) God can and faithfully will help
us to confess our sin and will lovingly draw us into closer relationship
with himself.

Still, we have work to do. We must be willing to be honest with
ourselves as we submit to God’s leadership to our confession and commitment.
Paul was very direct with early believers in Corinth who were falling short
of following Jesus faithfully in numerous ways. Paul called them to conduct
an honest self-examination and renewal of their commitment to Christ:
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are still in the Christian faith.
Test yourselves! Don’t you recognize that you are people in whom Jesus
Christ lives? Could it be that you’re failing the test? {6} I hope that you
will realize that we haven’t failed the test. {7} We pray to God that you
won’t do anything wrong. It’s not that we want to prove that we’ve passed
the test. Rather, we want you to do whatever is right, even if we seem to
have failed.” (2 Corinthians 13:5-7 GWT) Paul did not want any quarrels
between himself and the Corinthians or any excuses of their own to distract
them from following Jesus.

What is the state of your union with Christ? Have you laid out
clearly defined priorities for growing closer to Jesus in all you do? Is
your spiritual assessment filled with your own partisan agenda, or are you
open to honest acknowledgement of your need for doing things God’s way?

You do have an audience for your State of the (Spiritual) Union
address. Of course, God is your primary audience, and he is already at work
on the issues that will draw you into closer relationship. Fellow followers
of Jesus also have a caring community to hear one another’s personal reports
and to join forces with you to follow Christ more closely: “So admit your
sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you will be healed.
Prayers offered by those who have God’s approval are effective. (James 5:16
GWT)

-J. Edward Culpepper

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