I did it again. I went online to distract myself from life and discovered that the world is exploding around me.
Stanford. Orlando. Alton and Philando. Black Lives Matter. Dallas. Nice, France. Turkey. Baton Rouge.
This year is turning into a string of tragedy and disaster and violence. Oppressed people becoming angry. Angry people becoming furious. People who have been sustaining fury for years upon years reaching their breaking point. Those with hope struggling to hold on, even just another day, but secretly fearing they will be the next news story.
A colleague reflected in their twitter feed about how they’d grown up in a church culture that believed the end of days was imminent, and recently they are starting to wonder if maybe the End Times really are upon us.
I grew up in the same culture. When I grew up, I dismissed everything I’d learned as crazy, silly and that thing that conservatives tell their children to scare them into obedience. But now I wonder…
How long can all this really go on?
Where does this really end?
Jesus, are you coming soon to set up your Kingdom on earth?
I know that the Lord will return in His time, in His way and then everything will be glorious.
In the meantime, we are all still here on Earth and there is an important question we all must face.
How shall we then live?
The particular wording of this question is also the title of a book by the late Francis Schaeffer, a book I read as part of my history curriculum in high school. In this volume, Schaeffer examined centuries of intersecting church and political history on two continents, drawing on history, philosophy and everything that makes up a worldview to challenge his Christian reader to ponder, in light of what they believed, and the culture of those believes, how were they going to live their life?
I will not boast of having attained to Schaeffer’s intellect, but I think his question still stands.
How are we Christians going to live in the world in 2016 and, Lord willing we survive till then, in 2017? ’18? Beyond?
I recently heard a Christian express the sentiment that the church’s proper response should not be to get involved in politics or hope for social reform, but that we should instead focus on loving our families, loving our neighbors, and serving our communities.
I do agree with this Christian individual that loving our families is paramount. Long term, if we raise children who know they are loved by God and by their families, these children can grow into a generation that can effect huge change. The challenge, of course, is all those families who are not raising healthy children in an ethos of love. These families are only perpetuating the problems we are seeing in society today.
I also agree that an important action we can and should take is to serve our communities. The street on which one lives. One’s school district. Parish. City district. City. One’s cultural demographic. Age demographic. Work community. Recreational, educational, spiritual community.
There is something about this sentiment that is deeply grieving and seriously alarming. With the world exploding around us, no Christian can afford to be silent and hidden. We must, absolutely MUST take action, be present in our society, and be involved in credible ways.
I am very alarmed at the idea of a Christian community, a group of people who carry the ultimate Hope, choosing to withdraw into themselves, let the world destroy itself, and just make sure that our own people are safe. I am terrified of the notion of the Church withdrawing her voice from politics, from social justice, from social reform, from conversations about race and sex and gender. From conversations about refugees. From conversations about living with the growing threat of terrorism.
We cannot hide.
We cannot be silent.
We cannot hide our light under a basket.
I believe we can look to what Jesus modeled for us. He spent a good deal of His earthly ministry working directly with people. As I read the Gospels, I come to the realization that if Jesus had showed up in Portland in 2016, He would have worked very closely with the demographic of people on Oregon Health Plan, particularly those high utilizers of crisis services. These are the people with the most chaotic lives, the histories of the most devastating ongoing trauma, the most impairments to thought, emotion, relationship and even physical mobility. Essentially, “Those crazy people,” that generally make us cringe, turn up our nose and hurry our children in the opposite direction.
Jesus worked with these people. He spoke to them, touched them, healed them, and tangibly demonstrated love. In other situations, He openly challenged the existing systems that were exploiting people and perpetuating suffering.
Now I know my theology, particularly my soteriology. I know that the actual ultimate purpose of His coming was His redemptive sacrifice of Himself on the cross. I know that, had He never physically healed anyone, He could have still accomplished salvation. And I know that that most important salvation and healing is that of the eternal soul, because the body dies and decays.
But I also see that, for Jesus, the ultimate and the physical were integrally linked. He did them both, and did them both with passion. I think so should we.
Our world is dying around us. And maybe some of it we can’t save, but we don’t actually know that. What we do know is that Christ died to save sinners because, while they are still sinners, He loves them. I think so should we.
This means we need to value the world in which we live and become involved. We need to care about politics and social reform and social justice, conversations about race, sex, gender, refugees and terrorism. Not because these are the ultimate things, but because these are the current real life things that make up the world in which live the souls He wants to save.
So then I am speaking to the church. Not any local body in particular, but to any Christian who is listening. Our dying world is in need of you and the Hope that is in you.
Don’t hide in your prayer closet.
Don’t hide under a basket.
“Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!”