Earlier this month I attended several events in Washington, D.C., including the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) where I was encouraged by a theme of humility expressed on the part of our elected officials as they came together focusing on prayer for America. More than that, however, was the impression I sensed at the important role God’s Word plays in shaping our everyday lives.
In his address at the NPB, President Obama mentioned how, just days earlier while taking the oath of office, he’d placed his hand on the Bibles of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. Both of these men experienced more joy, pain, and uncertainty in a very short period of time than most of us experience in a lifetime. In his address over breakfast, the President made reference to both of these men who placed their confidence in God and His Word. God’s Word, through multiple generations of American history, has been an anchor for men and women as they deal with trying issues in difficult times.
One of the events I attended was sponsored by the American Bible Society (ABS). Approaching its 200th anniversary, ABS is a champion of Scripture engagement in America. ABS president-elect, Doug Birdsall, addressed the group reflecting on the final interview he did with the ABS board just a few weeks before in New York City. On his way to the interview he stopped at the New York Public Library, which had just undergone a multimillion dollar renovation. Glancing at the murals, Doug said he saw the Bible everywhere—Moses and the 10 Commandments, Gutenberg printing the Word of God, and The Medieval Scribe, which shows a monk in the Middle Ages copying a manuscript of the Bible. Doug said he was inspired by these murals elevating the Word of God in a public institution like the New York City Public Library. He went on to express his hope/dream/prayer that this generation would be the most engaged generation in American history with the Bible.
The key note speaker at the ABS event was Stephen Carter, a well-known and respected professor of law at Yale. His impressive résumé includes clerking for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Speaking to the group on the import role of faith in the public square, he made it clear that people of faith should not be afraid to be involved in shaping events in our country. He, too, elevated the role of God’s Word in shaping our lives—the Word shapes or lives which informs our behaviors and actions. As he spoke, I glanced down at the table where a small placard quoted George Washington as saying, “It is impossible to rightly govern…without God and the Bible.” We are better people; ours is a better country because of God’s Word.
Stephen Carter concluded with the thought that, “Great societies think about the future—they think more of their children and grandchildren than they do about themselves.” While I suspect he was referring to some of the huge challenges of our day and the need to address these for the benefit of future generations, my mind went immediately to the legacy of God’s Word for our children and grandchildren. We should never take for granted that we live in a country where we have the freedom to read God’s Word, worship as we want, and express our beliefs openly without fear of retribution. In addition, most of us have God’s Word in a language we read, write, and relate to best—for most of us that would be English.
These freedoms, including having the Scriptures in our mother tongue, are not universally shared with people in other parts of the world. Whether it’s here in America or in a remote village in South East Asia, it’s an injustice for people NOT to have access to God’s Word so that their thoughts and worldview can be shaped by the One who loves them very much. The legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren is shaped by our right understanding of God’s Word and what we do with that understanding. Giving others this opportunity is not unique only to Wycliffe, nor is it exclusively American. But it is a legacy we enjoy in America and Wycliffe. It’s the opportunity to be involved in something much larger than ourselves—the communication of God’s eternal truths through His eternal Word.
President and CEO
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA