Come on, people, is this any way for Christians to act? Do we live in a dangerous world? Yes. Are there people out there — of many faiths, colors, races, ethnicities, creeds, etc. — who are committed to doing harm? Yes. Are there overwhelming needs locally as well as globally? Yes. Are we facing challenges greater than our capacity to respond? Yes. So, what are we going to do about it? Well, for people who have no faith in God and for those who don’t really believe Jesus is who he claims to be and who confuse the Holy Spirit with Casper the Friendly Ghost, we throw up our hands in dismay and give in to fear. Fear, the lump of coal in the stocking of those who lack faith. We show the whole world who we really are by the way we behave in the face of fear.
I hear people purporting to be Christian saying we should no longer welcome the stranger. I hear the same voices saying we should take care of “our own” and not worry about the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the dispossessed. I hear people who are the fortunate recipients of God’s grace shouting that we should not extend such grace to others, especially of other faiths. I hear some of the least Christian, least Spiritual, un-Godly talk coming from the voice of fear, not reason or faith. The Christ who by God’s power tears down all the dividing walls of hostility is being rejected by many in the Christian church. What’s up with that?
The sad and unintentional fall-out of such words and behaviors is the witness we send to the world: we do not believe our God is great enough or powerful enough to see us through these dark times. Instead of relying on God’s Spirit to give us courage, power, and patience to be agents of peace, kindness, compassion, love, mercy and joy, we turn instead to our own limited resources to throw up walls and reinforce borders and draw ever-more destructive lines between “us” and “them” — generally mis-defining and misunderstanding “them” so that we end up fearing the wrong people. I am listening to some voices influential in Christian circles recommending we abdicate love of neighbor as well as enemy as we cower behind real and imaginary borders.
Now, I have to confess, I am not hearing any Christians confident in their faith in God talking this way. I actually believe this is a real “wheat and chaff” moment in the Christian faith in the United States. It is crystal clear who really believes in God when it comes to applying gospel principles to the plight of refugees, dealing with anarchist pretenders masking themselves as “religious, and engaging in a truly global inter-faith community. Those who are secure in their beliefs don’t have anything to prove. They understand that God doesn’t need us to defend God, but merely to state what we believe. There is no debate. Good news is good news, and when we offer it as such, we are allowing the seeds of God’s Holy Spirit to be spread far and wide. No need for anger. No need for hostility. No need for hate.
Those who not only believe that God is love, but know it to be true to the very core of their being, are not living in fear. Doubt is not the opposite of faith; fear is. Where there is real faith, fear can be conquered. Where fear prevails, faith is absent. This is not rocket science, nor is it a complex theology. If God is God, we have nothing to worry about. Those who wish to argue this point are free to do so, but it will not change the reality. Courage comes from faith. Trust comes from faith. Hope comes from faith. Faith in the God who is love.
It would be a really wonderful thing if a Savior were born this year to remind us who we are, and to get us over ourselves. We are paying attention to the wrong things. I know dozens of Muslim believers dedicated to peace and justice. I don’t know one Muslim terrorist. I actually, in my ministry, have known more Christian terrorists than terrorists claiming any other faith (a young man who decided bombing adult bookstores and clinics that specialized in treating single mothers was the finest expression of his faith, and four young Christian boys who showed Christ’s love by beating a young gay man to death both come to mind…). But, what if God sent a Messiah to rescue us from this faithless fear and pointed us in a better direction? Wouldn’t that be timely? Oh, wait, its been done. Perhaps if we all calm down and remember who we are, whose we are, and just how great and awesome God is, the light of Christmas might overcome our current darkness and Christians could offer a better way to deal with threats than to cave in to fear.
Categories: Advent, Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, Religion in the U.S.
Thank you, Dan, for a beautiful statement of faith and trust in God. I wish I could send this to every person in the world. But I will certainly share this with everyone I know.
Thank you for your leadership in providing words that not only remind, but model who we are. The quiet is deafening.