Sometimes when I sit down to write “The Bias Opinion,” I do not know what to write. Even though I have more than my share of opinions, I do not see myself as a writer. So, often times writing comes slowly and with some pain. Not physical pain, but the pain of not being able to express myself the way I want to in the written word.
Today is one of those days.
So, I am just going to let a couple of my thoughts and opinions flow. Hopefully, I can and will express myself in an intelligent and Christian way that will be in service to our work together.
Where Have All the Christians Gone?
Recently, I have been reflecting on a couple of issues. One of the issues focuses upon the condition and position of the United Methodist Church. I have been asking myself, “Where have all the Christians gone?”
Now, I know most of us say we are followers of Jesus, but, friends, we are known by our fruits. What fruits are we producing?
The Church that Forms
My life and ministry have been shaped by the church. It was the church that pointed me to Jesus and taught me the Jesus way of living. The church taught me that my relationships with the people of this world are shaped and directed by my relationship with God. Those relationships when shaped by Jesus are characterized by mutual love, respect, trust, and vulnerability.
- It was in the church that I experienced that the last are first and first are last and where those who hunger and thirst, physically, spiritually, emotionally find what is needed to be who God created them to be.
- It was the church where I experienced that there was room at the table for everyone: regardless of economic status, whether they had positions of power or were marginalized with no one to call family or a place to call home.
- It was in the church where I learned that the kingdom of God knows no geographic boundaries, no political parties, no single language or culture. It was the church that taught me that life was not about power and might but about acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
What Has Happened to the Church?
Over the past several weeks, months, even years, I have wondered “what has happened to the church where my faith was born, shaped, and nurtured?” Have we lost our focus? Have we lost our identity in Christ?
- Where is “love one another as I have loved you” being practiced?
- Where is “don’t use harmful words, but helpful words, the kind that builds up and provides what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you” being lived out?
- Where has “they will know we are Christians by our love” gone?
Are we so focused upon ourselves that we no longer follow Jesus? Are we so blind that we are not aware of God expressed in the everyday, ordinary acts of love and kindness?
I have begun to think that we are like Herman, the 90-year-old gentleman who was driving down the interstate. His cell phone rang. It was his wife. She said, “Herman, I just heard on the news that there is a car going the wrong way on I-71. Please be careful!”
Herman answered, “It’s not just one car, Dear, it is hundreds of them!”
Tell me that is not where we are at as a church? You do know that the chief sin of a good person is thinking that your experience defines reality. What if, like Herman, you are right in all the wrong ways?
So, what do we do?
Where You Begin Matters
For years, I assumed that the church pointed me and the world to God. Boy, have I been naïve. What I have learned is this, if we begin with the church, the kingdom of God may or may not be recognized. But, if we begin with Jesus, the church becomes an instrument to participate in the kingdom of God. When we begin with Jesus we can and will point people to the reminders of God’s love.
So, what do we do?
Point People to Jesus
I have been in conversation with a friend and colleague. In our conversation, we recommitted ourselves to this: “Let’s point people to Jesus.” That means you and I need to be related to Jesus, constantly nurturing and deepening our relationship with Jesus and with one another.
If we are going to point people to Jesus, then Jesus is to lead and we are to follow. We must get out of the way and let Jesus have his way.
Will this be easy?
It will require integrity, choosing courage over comfort, what is right over what is fun, fast, and easy. It means practicing our values, not just professing them.
Valuing Jesus Means Encountering Jesus
If Jesus is the center of our faith, the reason for our faith, and the invitation to faith, we are saying we value Jesus. And if we value Jesus, we need to do more than giving Jesus lip service. We need to be constantly looking for, pointing people to, and inviting people to encounter Jesus.
So, if you get frustrated, like I do, because people around you are focusing on issues, what are you doing to circle back and to focus on Jesus? If you get frustrated when there are inconsistencies in actions, what are you doing to point out the inconsistencies? What are you doing to circle back and to attempt consistency again?
I know it is not easy. But here is where the rubber hits the road.
Growing In Grace
You and I are not perfect. The church is not perfect. But we are growing in grace. Growing in grace, God’s grace, is one of the highest, if not the highest, values we hold. God is not finished with any of us yet. We’re on the way to becoming more like Jesus, so let’s stop getting in the way of Jesus.
Maybe the best I have to offer today is this: let’s point people to Jesus in the midst of this lousy, screwed-up, glorious community called the church, which by God’s grace is enough.
Well, I have taken all my space expressing only one opinion. So, I’ll keep the rest of my opinions to myself until next time. Until then, will you join me in pointing people to Jesus?