By Larry Ray Hafley
If military might made a nation great, the Assyrian and Roman empires would never have fallen. If scientific education made a nation great, Nazi Germany would have ruled the world. If vast natural resources made a nation great, the former Soviet Union would be flourishing. If money made a nation great, the oil rich nation of Saudi Arabia would be strong.
The United States has all of the above measures of strength in abundance. Do those items make us a great nation? No. They only make us a country rich in the symbols and accouterments of material wealth, worldly wisdom, and physical power. They are not standards of real worth, or of true value.
You are already ahead of me, for you know what makes a nation great; you know what gives it genuine force and stability. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Now, apply the same rule to the church. What makes a church great in the sight of the Lord? Is it money? No, Laodicea evidently had that, but they were “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). An urbane, sophisticated, educated membership may comprise an ignorant congregation (1 Cor. 3:18-21). Thus, we may safely say, “Righteousness exalteth God’s ‘holy nation,’ the church, but sin is a reproach to any congregation” (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). (If you doubt that conclusion, see Paul’s judgment of the Corinthians — 1 Cor. 3:1-3.)
Next, attach these principles to yourself, an individual. What makes a person great in the sight of God Almighty? Is it power, prestige, position, or prominence? Absolutely not! See Luke 12:15-21; 16:19-31; 18:1-14. Remember, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). Thus, we may certainly say, “Righteousness exalteth an individual, but sin is a reproach to any person.”
If either a nation or a church is going to be exalted, if they are going to be great, their individual members must be pure, holy, and righteous. Neither the nation nor the church can be exalted if you and I are not righteous before God. That is a sobering thought. One thing is for sure — if we want a great nation, and if we want to be part of a good church, we know where to start.