What would the world look like if we traded in our pursuit of the American dream for friendship with God and others?
The American dream is the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. The inherent problem with the dream is that it allows for the temptation to place things above people. Objects over relationships. Wealth over friendships. Freewill is a double-edged sword. It has both positive and negative effects.
As a culture, we’ve misplaced our admiration, love, and reverence. Instead of loving God first, loving other people second, and loving ourselves third, we’ve evolved to rely on the fragile footing of human wisdom, achievement, and pride. These things may look good for a while, but a weak foundation cannot withstand the storms of life. A person, a family, a country built on a foundation of sand, will fall when the rain, floods, and winds beat against it. It seems like the foundation of America is shaking as though it’s built on sand. The flimsiness of the institutions on which we’ve based our hopes is being exposed. It’s a result of our decades’ devolution of misplaced trust. How far we’ve fallen since our founding when it was written:
- When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, … We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, … (opening of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)
- We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, September 17, 1787)
However, it’s not too late. America can still be repaired and redeemed. It is possible, and it’s through biblical friendship.
Dr. John M. Perkins conveys this concept of trading our pursuit of the American dream for biblical friendship. I am captivated by what he eloquently articulates. In 1970, Dr. Perkins was tortured at the hands of the Mississippi police for his leadership in the voting rights movement. His radical forgiveness and tireless pursuit of biblical justice set him on a course where he would counsel six American Presidents, receive 16 honorary doctorates, and bring healing to broken communities around the world. Here’s what he says:
- In my ninety-one years on this earth, I have come to believe that the purpose of man is to know this awesome God—to love Him, serve Him, and worship Him—and to make Him known. And I believe that God has not only made us for that and commanded us to do that, but in His grace He has also shown us how. He has shown us the way. And it is through friendship. This “having fellowship with one another,” that He makes possible, is the revolution that can heal the centuries’ old hurts and hatreds that divide us. Because we are friends with Him, we do not have to cross these divides alone. We are not meant to. Friendship is the ship we are meant to take along our pilgrim journey, loving one another, and even laying down our lives for one another if necessary.
- I believe that God models perfectly for us what this kind of biblical friendship looks like. It pursues, even those who are unlikely, unqualified, and unworthy. Biblical friendship goes deep. It doesn’t settle for surface talk. Biblical friendship forgives and does so without limit.
- Biblical friendship reaches across lines of ethnicity, gender, and social status. Jesus showed us how to do that. He was God in the flesh, yet He came as a helpless child born to a virgin. He came in humility—not at all what you would expect of a king. He was a friend of prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. He showed us how to reach across and show love to people who don’t look like us. He modeled true friendship when He gave His life for His friends.
Well said, Dr. Perkins. I’m ready to take that trade.