Thursday, July 27, 2017

“If I am right, Thy grace impart—Still in the right to stay;—If I am wrong, O, teach my heart—To find that better way!” ― Alexander Pope

                     Trying to do the right thing is always tough, because the right thing to do is almost always the hardest thing to do.  It’s not hard to know what the right thing is, we know it almost instinctively.  The hard thing to do is to do the right thing.  Feelings may get hurt, people you love may suffer, you may even lose your job or in extreme cases your life—but the right thing is the right thing—it just is.  
                          When Christ said you have to pick up your cross to follow Him, He knew what He was talking about.  Lots of the decisions we have to make in this life are hard ones.  There are virtually no important decisions that don’t touch others.  Okay, what toilet paper to buy probably doesn’t have much of an impact on anybody else or whether you have a large or small coffee, but the big decisions always have consequences.  Christ showed us the way.  We choose out of love, out of compassion, out of caring for and loving others, out of our love for God, and out of our desire to be true imitators of Christ.  It’s not always easy.  The story of the Good Samaritan is a case in point.  The Samaritan knew his help wouldn’t be appreciated or applauded, but help he did—because it was the right thing to do, it was the Christ thing to do.  I truly believe that Christ doesn’t care one bit whether or not you own a gun, or for which political party you vote, but He does care if you do not love, if you do not feed the hungry, if you do not clothe the naked, if you simply live your life as if others in need don’t exist.  It’s an easy life to live, one that pretends that others in need don’t exist, but I’m afraid it will not be a life that leads to life eternal.  
                            God has given each of us many gifts.  Some get more than others, but the parable of the talents teaches us all we need to know about God-given gifts.  We are to use them for others and not to hide them or pretend they are not there.  At the end of that parable, the one who did not use his “talent” was to be “cast into the outer darkness.”  There is just no way to spin being cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth as a good thing.  The miracle of our lives, one that Christ gave us, is that as long as we draw breath, we can repent, be forgiven, and start anew using our gifts.  It is never too late if you are still alive.  If you have gifts that you hide or don’t use because you are afraid of the consequences—you are going to get consequences that you should truly be afraid of.  You do the right thing because it is what Christ called you to do, why God gave you gifts fitted to your task, and it is what will ultimately lead to your greatest reward.  
                             I can say that I have done the right thing on more than one occasion, but almost never without negative consequences for me or my family.  Once I helped a young man get into drug rehab and it turned his life around.  I didn’t know the man, but his sister was the wife of one of my parishioners, and she asked me to help.  I did so knowing that I would have to disappoint one of my churches by not participating in a local festival.  The church reduced my salary and tried to fire me.  I couldn’t tell them what I was really doing, but it was the right thing.   Leaving my family and friends in the U.S. wasn’t easy, and it caused hard feelings and even hatred in some cases, but we were called here to serve God in Tanzania and here we serve.  Other clergy said and wrote terrible things about me, and, as you know, the Bishop of Arkansas illegally revoked my credentials and kicked me out of the denomination without ever having met me or written or spoken to me.  I have never joined another denomination and never will, but serving here is still the right thing to do.  I will die not being a member of any denomination, but I will die as a Christian serving those in need.  I know that that is the right thing to do.  You will always know what is the right thing to do—you may not always have the courage to do it.  God understands, but you must try.  
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