A young pastor recently received a heartbreaking message from someone close to him. It was not what one might expect from a member of one’s flock. It was not directly related to personal tragedy, problems within the church, misconduct within the church, or disagreement with a recent sermon. Also, it came in the form of a simple statement, “Because you were slow to speak, I didn’t know if you cared.”
As anyone listening knew immediately, the pastor’s remorse over the situation was honest and heartfelt. He had a reason for failing to speak into the situation immediately, but that comment made him realize sometimes there are no good reasons for waiting to take action.
The details of the pastor’s mistake are unimportant to the discussion or thinking I hope to start here. It was as you can easily imagine dealing with the current turmoil in the United States, and one horrible incident in particular. Still, the situation placed the pastor in a terrible quandary. How did he lead the church into a politically charged situation without crossing the boundaries that are supposed to exist between faith and politics?
Personally, I feel he did a great job of making it clear this church was not going to involve itself in political activity. He also made it clear the church had a role to play in the problems facing this country today. In fact, the church already plays a role in helping detail with societal issues. Not a political role, but a spiritual leadership role.
The problem of course is that many within churches across this land have preached a different message. Though the message may have been indirect, it was clear. Paying attention to current events, especially politics, is detrimental to one’s faith. It could also endanger the church’s standing as a religious entity.
I cannot tell you how many of my church friends almost brag about their lack of interest in current events. They seem to feel they can withdraw from that aspect of society and let God take care of it. Either that or they just don’t want to be bothered with the realities of daily life. Of course, there are a few who seem to feel politics is part of their religion. It is likely both sides heard something different in the pastor’s remarks that Sunday.
The problem many seem to have is understanding faith and religion are not the same thing. One can have faith in God, believe the Bible is the Word of God, and still be political. This will sound very judgmental of me, but I wonder about the faith of anyone who feels politics and societal conflicts will damage their faith in some way. To me, my faith leads me to believe there is a purpose to all of this mess, and it is all part of God’s plan. Our job is to pray, work, and believe He is in control.
My church considers itself a church without walls. It also tries its best to teach lessons that can be “Monday morning relevant.” True in most cases, those lessons are how we should present ourselves to the world in ways that bring glory to our Father. In some cases, that means being involved in the mess out there. Yes, prayer works, but sometimes the answer to our prayers requires us to get a bit sweaty and get our hands dirty.
By getting our hands dirty and working up a sweat, I do not necessarily mean working a kids camp, leading a small group, or mowing a widow’s lawn. Those are great acts of service, but when we do those we are in a way preaching to the choir. Even when we reach out to organizations as my church home does, supporting activities in minority communities, or economically depressed areas the effort can be more about feeling good than really being the hands of feet of Jesus.
Whatever outreach we do, should bring about change in us as well. The purpose of serving is not to make us feel good. Hopefully, that is one of the benefits, but another benefit is to bring about change within us or strengthen are faith, enhancing changes made in the past.
People must be able to see God in us if we are to make a difference in the world. They cannot do that if we hide from the problems.
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