It is the end of March 2021 and it has been a difficult year for most everyone on the planet. When we go through difficult times we tend to seek one or both of these things:
2) SOMEONE/THING TO BLAME
Over the course of the last year we've battled with a world-wide pandemic. Many have lost loved ones. Many lost their jobs or businesses. Many were asked to stay inside and this exacerbated their deep set depression, feelings of loneliness and isolation and thus, many decided to take their own lives.
How should the church respond?
We could decide to continue meeting in-person, organize efforts to get in touch with people in-need, and essentially turn our nose up to the government regulations for the sake of helping people.
We could meet online and keep to ourselves to help by preventing the spread of a deadly virus.
Racial tension in the US is not anything new. Last year began with public outcry over black men and women brutalized at the hands of police officers. Another case involved a black man jogging, chased and murdered - all recorded - and it took the police months to arrest the white men who did the evil crime.
How should the church respond?
On different levels people all over the world are dealing with their own or shared crisis. We have people who are homeless, people who are addicted to opioids, people feeling beat up and persecuted because of their gender or sexual preference, people who are jobless, people who are oppressed, people who are abused.
How should the church respond?
What would Jesus Do?
What did He do?
Jesus lived in a world just like ours. There were hurting people and oppressive institutions all around.
Sometimes He healed people of their diseases, gave hungry people food and gave people money to pay their taxes.
Other times He left the sick behind for the sake of fulfilling His larger mission.
Other times He said tough things so that the hungry would walk away from Him, because following Jesus was not about getting fed with earthly food.
Other times He told people that they would be blessed because they were poor and that their real treasure was in heaven.
Did that help?
The answer may not be about what Jesus did in each and every situation. We can use those stories to either perpetually pat ourselves on the back or consistently beat ourselves up.
Jesus did what He did, when He did it because He knew WHO HE WAS and He knew HIS MISSION. There were times He had to say, "no." There were times He had to be the comforter and times He had to be the judgment bringer. Likewise, people looked to Jesus for comfort and they looked to Jesus for someone to blame. Let's not forget that, when it was all said and done - as loving and compassionate as our Savior was - HE WAS MURDERED for it.
How about us? How about the church?
WE HAVE TO ACT. The church is the body of Christ. We exist to continue His work. That is work to teach truth and it is work to bring healing to the sick and food to the hungry. It is to seek and save the lost and it is about setting captive people free. As Christians we believe that seeing someone in need and simply wishing them well is as good as hating them. We also recognize that sometimes helping is hurting and this is not an excuse to not help but a call for us to be, "shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." Jesus said that (Matthew 10:16) when He sent His disciples out like "sheep among wolves."
WE HAVE TO SEEK FIRST GOD'S KINGDOM/RIGHTEOUSNESS. Sheep among wolves you say? Yep. Light in darkness and not just any darkness, a darkness that HATES the light. To the world, Christians have the potential to be "the fragrance of death" (2 Corinthians 5:16). This world is not our home and just as God did not send Jesus to be an earthly king, He is not asking His Church to rule the world. First and foremost we are called to walk by faith. We live and act to please our Heavenly Father. Certainly there are times that we follow the example of the Apostle Paul and make ourselves, "slaves to everyone." We must however, not forget why he became, "all things to all men," and that was, "for the sake of the gospel." It was not to avoid criticism. It was not to be liked by all men.
WE HAVE TO BE UNIFIED. Sadly, through the pandemic, much of the criticism of the church was from other churches. There is a need for prophets and correction for sure, but there is a difference between discipline that comes from love and criticism that comes from angry or self-righteous hearts. I read one person's comment after some world event because their tweet got shared multiple times and it was something like, "If no one talked about this publicly in your church today - you are going to the wrong church." I'm just not sure how a statement like that helps. You can look it up anywhere - the number of churches in the United States that are smaller than 100 people is something like 80% of them. If you make the membership number 250 people - that encompasses about 95% of US churches. Each church has a responsibility to do what they can to serve in God's kingdom. Christians have spent too much time judging what other churches are doing which automatically distracts from the mission of being the body of Christ in our world. We should be judging sin - don't get me wrong. Churches spewing hate should be rebuked by other churches. Churches who are idle should be goaded. There are FAR TOO MANY ISSUES in this world. We need to feel confident in how God uses us and have the ability to look around town or around the country and marvel in how God is using a diversity of churches to accomplish an amazing amount of good.
Maybe this list could be longer, but I believe this is a good start. I love being a part of the Utica church of Christ. We can't do it all, but it is so encouraging to serve alongside saints who would like to!
Remember, people are looking for comfort or looking to blame. Sometimes we can't avoid the blame, but as we continue to live in a world full of pain, lets do our best to comfort and love those around us - or as Jesus reminded us, "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself' "