Sunday, August 28, 2016
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” ― Stephen Colbert
Within fifty miles of our house, lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, baboons, and cheetahs all live in the wild with no fences or any manmade structures between them and us. Happily, they don’t like to be around lots of people and they don’t invade our space. People that live on the other side of our hills sometimes get eaten by old lions when they are sleeping in their cassava fields to keep the elephants away, but those deaths are rare, maybe one or two a year. Basically, we get along because we don’t have what they want, and we don’t want to be bothering them because of the rather dire consequences if we do. You would think if we can learn to get along with predators who can kill in seconds, we could learn to get along with each other, but we have more difficulty getting along with others on a church committee than we do with the deadly wild animals who live so close to us. Sounds pretty stupid don’t you think? Maybe I’m not remembering properly, but it seems to me that it was common for members of the same church to have greater difficulty accepting and loving one another than those in foreign lands. Do I have it wrong? Do all churches sail swimmingly along with no hatred or divisiveness among their people? I seem to recall that in one church I served, people who wanted to feed the homeless and use church equipment that was just sitting idle during the week had to fight for a couple of years to make that happen. I am proud that they persevered, but should it have been so hard? I remember a staff meeting when someone wanted to know how to keep the homeless from trying to eat on Wednesday nights with the regular congregation. I am sad to say that there were several staff who saw that as a problem. I also remember a staff member being upset over a homeless man taking more than one free Bible from a table full of free Bibles. Something seemed wrong with being upset about that. I wonder what Christ would think of the things that are fought over in our churches? The good and great churches fight over how best to expand the Kingdom and serve those who are in greatest need. It warms my heart to see how many churches respond to floods in Louisiana and tornadoes in Indiana. Every church has within it the soul of Christ, but some manage to keep it caged up. When the worship service sets your soul free, when being in church every Sunday provides you a mooring point around which the rest of your week has meaning, when your Sunday School class challenges you to be a better woman/man and a better Christian—you’re in a good church. But here’s what you probably don’t want to hear, it’s not someone else’s responsibility to make your church an active, vital part of Christ’s mission—it’s yours. If you can put on that yoke, you can change the world and face of Christianity in your community. God puts a lot in our hands. He will give us all we need, but we have to initiate the work. We have to seek, knock, ask, and pick up our crosses. Then, He will lighten our load, light our way out of the darkness, and fill us with grace and joy. And that’s the truth.