2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
This is a very famous verse, but one difference between the English and the Japanese jumped out at me just now. Where every English translation I am aware of says, “who are called by my name,” the Japanese says, “who call on my name.” That actually makes a huge difference, because it eliminates a point of pride. We like to say, “See, we are the people of God. We are Christians.” However, there is much less “pride of position” in the statement that “We are people who seek God.” That said, this verse is still a call to repentance. It is significant that it is specifically in reference to what we today would call “natural disasters,” with drought and locusts mentioned in the verse before this. Today we bend over backwards to avoid saying, or to even deny explicitly, that any natural disaster is the result of sin, but that is hardly the Biblical position. Even the Church is bound by “political correctness,” not calling a spade a spade in the effort to offend no one. Frankly, some people make it their business to be offended, and some people need to be offended. They are sometimes the same people! About 40 years ago Rock Church in Virginia Beach spearheaded a movement calling America to repentance based on this verse, but few people paid much if any attention. This verse was brought out again after the 9/11 terror attacks, and it’s come up again recently with the pandemic. The problem in every case has been that there’s been very little genuine repentance. A vital element of repentance is mentioned right here: “turn from their wicked ways.” If there is no change in behavior, there’s been no real repentance. For example, there was a spike in church attendance after 9/11, but it soon died down. Today with the pandemic, people are asking for “a return to normal,” when many things about “normal” were and are in violation of God’s Word. It is significant that the President, who has needed a great deal of repentance himself, is spearheading the effort to make genuine changes from a governmental perspective. He is certainly no more perfect than anyone else, but he at least is honest about it. I think that’s one reason he is so often accused of lying, by those who have no real interest in God’s truth. That said, national repentance must involve the government, but it’s also got to go down to the individual citizens. Each person is individually accountable to God, and we must never forget that.
I talk often about the time God called me to account directly, showing me a mirror, spiritually speaking, to see myself. I don’t speak so often about the time He rebuked me most strongly through one of His human servants. Cornelius Iida, upon retiring from a distinguished career as an interpreter for US presidents, chose to return to the land of his birth in order to share the Gospel, and we had the privilege of meeting him and his wife. Not long after they came to Nagasaki, Cathy and I decided to go spend four months in Seattle to support our younger daughter in getting settled in college there, and I asked Cornelius if they would live in our house and pastor the church for that interval. At first they were very open to the idea, but then something I said revealed my heart, and Cornelius called me to account, saying that my priorities were reversed and I was treating the church like a hobby, and he would have nothing to do with that. It was a painful shock, but he was quite right. I won’t go into all the details, but our time in the Seattle area was one of various lifestyle changes. It wasn’t easy, either for us or for the church, but when we returned to Omura I openly declared that I was a pastor, doing various other things for financial support, rather than being a teacher or whatever who happened to lead a church on the side. God doesn’t play games with repentance, and I must never do so either.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Cornelius Iida and his faithfulness to You, refusing to take the “easy way out” of not offending me. May I too love people enough to risk offending them and their not liking me, in order that I may possibly call them to repentance. May my repentance be instant and real, each time You point out sin in my life, so that nothing will interfere with my obedient fellowship with You. Thank You. Praise God!