May 25, 2007

A Better Way

One of my pet peeves as a pastor, mind you a conservatively minded pastor, is that I so often have to apologize for the words (and sometimes the behavior) of other, better known pastors and talking heads of American Christianity. I really get my tail in a twist over this quite often and think, to myself, "There has to be a better way!". And there is...

I understand that many of these talking heads care deeply about the issues they are addressing, I just wonder if they've stopped caring as deeply about the people involved in the issues. Whether it's a boycott of the latest corporate offender or a letter writing campaign to get our elected representative's attention about the latest and greatest threat to Christianity, I just think it is a bad way to carry out our calling as followers of Christ. I've long said that the world knows what we are "against" better than they know what we are "for". It's time the church that claims to follow Christ and His ways actually gets on with the business of doing so.

The following quote from Dostoyevsky's book, The Brothers Karamazov, put it quite nicely.

"At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of human sins, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by human love. Always decide, 'I will combat it with human love.' If you make up your mind about that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it."

Now, I will add that human love will fall short of righting the wrongs of the world's sins. That will always require the love of God. However, God has chosen to utilize the weak and broken vessels of humanity to communicate that love.

I love these words from 1 Peter 3:15-16, where loud and uncouth Peter, who was often a victim of 'foot-in-mouth disease', gives instructions on how to communicate the gospel. He says, "In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." Seems that somewhere along the line Peter learned the truth that you get more results from a gentle conversation than a shouting match.

So, for all you well meaning blow-hards, ease up. I'm getting weary of making excuses for you.


Panda said...

"It's time the church that claims to follow Christ and His ways actually gets on with the business of doing so."

Wise words, John! Please allow me to add some more words of wisdom. No, not from me, but from another John!
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16-18)

If we lead by example, if our deeds match our words, we will get some positive attention from the world (like the first Christians - Acts 2) and that will give us the opportunity to point people to the eternal Source of Love, our Father in Heaven. We have nothing to fear, so why do we still give people the impression that we need to be afraid of anything? You are right, let's tell the world what we approve of and let's add some credibility to our words by living like true disciples of Christ!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts brother. Our God reigns. Have a blessed Pentecost!

John said...


Have I told you how good it is to have a brother in the Netherlands? I am growing in my appreciation of what God is doing throughout the world and increasingly amazed at my smallness and His greatness.

Thanks for the comment and for the confidence that there is one more out there that is following Christ. May your tribe increase!

A note of personal accountability on this issue...I will be spending some time with a couple of self-proclaimed alcoholics this week. They are trying, unsuccessfully, to drown some pain. I could go and shout at them about the foolishness of what they are doing, but I think I will go with an encouraging word and an invitation to change. You know, the way I see Jesus doing it in the gospels. Isn't it interesting that the only people He seems to get upset with are the religious folks?

Thanks again Paul! May the power of Pentecost fill your life this week (and every week!)