This is an essay I wrote on September 11, 2003. It wasn’t written as an anniversary missive, but the events of 9-11 do form the backdrop to the premise, a canvas on which the power of renewal is painted in vivid colors. If you are having a tough time this week I pray this posting gives you a spiritual lift and that God gives you all of the sustaining grace you need in Christ Jesus to renew your day, your week, your life.
The Power of Renewal
A frequent theme in my writing is that biblical truth often finds its expression in the public sphere. This is a twist on the old refrain “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem.” Today, our cultural elites constantly ask “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens” as they attempt to remove all vestiges of Judeo-Christianity from the public square. However, Christian themes resonate within our culture in ways unrecognized by the power elite, proving that God’s design for human society, even in its wretched fallen state, still echoes in the thoughts of secular and business pundits.
In a recent letter from the editor in FastCompany magazine, John A. Byrne talks about “The Power of Renewal.” As the Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, so eloquently points out, while many religions and philosophies talk about rebirth, using images like the Phoenix or reincarnation, only Christianity speaks of redemption and renewal, of the God-given power to change, reinvigorate, re-empower, to overcome failure or tragedy.
For John Byrne, September 11, 2001 caused a sudden change in perspective, a reordering of priorities, and a need to find a way forward through the catastrophe and chaos. The obvious question is what is it that allows us to do what needs to be done, to move forward in the face of such significant tragedy? John says “It is the very notion of renewal, of our ability to learn and to grow, to recover from defeats and to live life with vigor and resilience.”
As a Christian, I know that the root of that idea lies in the Christian concept of redemption and renewal, and at its heart is the love of God in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as the power of his singular act is applied to hearts of men and women throughout history. Western Civilization is built on the concept of redemption and renewal, the possibility of growth and improvement, of overcoming failure and tragedy. This foundation was laid by Christian truth invigorating a dying Mediterranean classic culture. The Christian concept of renewal brings hope where none exists and it is why Rome eventually fell to the martyrs and faith it tried to silence.
Byrne goes on to say “Our ‘capacity for renewal,’ as the late author and activist John W. Gardner wrote, is what summons us to greatness.” He further quotes Gardner with “The renewal of societies and organizations can go forward only if someone cares. Apathy and lowered motivation are the most widely noted characteristics of a civilization on the downward path . . . Apathetic men accomplish nothing. Men who believe in nothing change nothing for the better. They renew nothing and heal no one, least of all themselves . . . If we falter, it will be a failure of heart and spirit.” [emphasis added]
While Byrne does not make the connection, it is clear to me. Contrary to the current secular and anti-Christian thinking, Judeo-Christianity and its influence in the public sphere is not detrimental to our society, rather it is the core, the root of our hope. Without the Christian concept of redemption and renewal, we are left only with anger and revenge, which tear down and destroy, rather than rebuild and restore. We as a country and a culture are slowly coming out of September 11th because of the remaining vestiges of our Christian cultural heritage, which still has the power to enflame even the hearts and spirits of the secular culture with the hope of redemption and renewal.
So, what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? Everything. For Jerusalem brings to Athens hope, and without hope there is no meaning, no future, no heart, no spirit. Christian, resist with all your might the secular elites’ attempts to remove our Judeo-Christian influence from the public sphere. While they are too ignorant to see the catastrophic results that getting their desire would bring upon their own heads, we who have hope, who believe in renewal and redemption, have to live out that belief not only in the privacy of our own homes and lives, but in the public sphere. The failure of our heart and spirit is the failure of everything, since we who believe are the only remaining carriers of the flame of hope, of God’s renewal and redemption.