Pastor’s Perspective. . .
I. We are involved in a global war against Islamic terrorists who go by the name ISIS, al- Queda, or whatever else they desire to call themselves. These villains seek to destroy Christians, shoot up gay night clubs, attack Bastille Day celebrations, and generally seek to kill and maim anyone who disagrees with them. They are simultaneously more vigorous in their morality and more violently immoral than any other religious population on earth. Their fervor both frightens and challenges us as to our fundamental lack of religious mettle.
For the Islamist, there is no nuance to their religion. They are unwilling to compromise on their principles. You are either devout or you are not. I believe that a small portion of why we are frightened by the ferocity of these attacks, is that we must acknowledge that many of these terrorists are in fact more faithful to the darkness than we are to the light.
The Church must discover new ways to live a vigorous and faithful life in the light of God’s love. We must find new ways to show that God in Jesus Christ does not command us to destroy, but to heal. Our God does not desire others to suffer, but sent His Son to die for a people yet unborn. Only when the Church finds the courage to proclaim salvation in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit will the fear subside and the Truth be lifted.
II. We are witnessing the destruction of our national unity. Whether we are cleaved by racial strife or political division, the simple truth is that we are more divided than we have been in a long time. When President Obama was elected as our first African American President, most believed that racial reconciliation was close at hand. The hope was that the United States was growing closer to the dream of a color blind society. Sadly the reality is that racial animosity is still alive and well in this nation.
The loss of national harmony is not simply based on race. Our political and social dialogue has become infused with mistrust. We have become trapped in tribal thinking; narrowed into thinking of ourselves as unique and distinct from those who may be different. The selfish focus of the individual has caused us to devolve into miniature tribes and conflicted self-interests. These tribal interests have not only created new groups to join, but they have also created new enemies to hate. All one has to do is spend some time on social media to discover that while you can quickly discover people just like you, you will also find that expressing your opinion will create an immediate and violent backlash from people who disagree with you.
Instead of pointing fingers of blame, the Church must first acknowledge that we have failed to live up to the expectations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have also become waaay too comfortable in partisan political debates. In Christ there is to be no distinction between peoples, yet on Sunday mornings we still find ourselves cleaved by race, class and culture in the majority of our local Churches. We claim to be without prejudice, yet we live separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church must find new ways to stand with others in our society. We must cross racial and class distinctions and find new ways of uniting people in Christ Jesus. This unity cannot be based on the comfortable agreement of like-minded individuals but on a radical obedience to God who calls us to love our enemies.
III. Our social institutions have been radically and swiftly transformed. Whether it is marriage equality or transgendered bathrooms, the morals of our nation have been significantly changed over the past few years. Regardless of what we individually believe about the moral and social changes that have transpired, no one can deny that the changes to the social fabric of the nation have shifted quickly and have moved the culture away from traditional cultural Christianity. How should we deal with these changes in our culture?
Baptists believe in the separation of the Church and the State, but don’t often understand what this means. We believe that while the State has the authority to change structures and laws, it cannot change the nature of what is moral or immoral. In other words, the separation of Church and State recognizes that there is and always has been a distinction between human and divine law. While this is easy to say, it is much more difficult to live. Separation of Church and State means that the government may not always agree with the moral codes of the scripture that the Church affirms. Separation of Church and State means that we may not always find approval from our culture, but neither should we seek to gain from Caesar what should only be sought from God. Separation of Church and State implies that there is a natural conflict between these competing spheres of influence. We should not be surprised when we are asked to live in the conflict.
There are days when I grow angry at the state of the world. As I have prayed I have discovered the reason for my despair. I was taught to believe that the world was a well ordered and rational place to live. I was taught that our politicians were honorable and that our system was good and just. I was taught that I could place my trust in the nation that I live in and laws that man created. It is never easy to admit that you were taught lies, especially when the lies are so self-evident and illogical. Why do we assume that the world is good? Why do we assume that leadership is benevolent? Neither the scriptures nor our Founding Fathers believed this. Our founders did not believe in the wisdom of judges nor the goodness of leaders, that is why they created a system of checks and balances to limit the damage that could be done by tyrants and parties. They did not believe that human beings would create just laws, which is why they created a bill of rights to guarantee the rights of the citizenry. I accepted the lie because it is what I want to hear. I want things to be easy, safe, and peaceful.
What I now know is that I will never find solace or hope in the world around me. To find hope in the world would be contrary to the gospel’s call to the Church. The good news does not come from the world to the Church, but from the Church to the world. A Church that searches for hope in the world has inverted our expectations and in doing so has perverted the gospel. We will never find our hope in the world, because the hope of the world is Jesus Christ. In God’s wisdom, God has determined to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through the work of His Church. We have been sent into the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ to bring salvation, new life and hope to a world lost in sin.
We face many problems in the world today. I am thankful that in Jesus Christ we have real solutions. It is time for the Church to be transformed through the renewing of our minds and once again bring the gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of the world, to our friends and neighbors. The world is broken and it will not find healing through political parties or tribal cults. Only Jesus Christ can heal our brokenness. It is time to mobilize a brave, bold, and passionately loving Church to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is time to put away our childish ways and to live for Christ for the sake of the world.
Pray and work with me as we follow the gospel’s call.