Monday, May 23, 2016
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently. 1 Timothy 1:5-7(NLT)
Every time I see a post on Facebook, or somehow end up in a discussion about the latest controversy or political mess (especially the religious kind), I feel like I want to go take a shower to squeegee-off the gunk! “Gunk” is my quasi-theological term for what you get all over you in such discussions. It’s the baptized version of that famous advice:
…never wrestle with a pig; you both get mud all over you…and the pig loves it!
Several quadrennial seasons of wrangling at United Methodist General Conferences over human sexuality have come down to laying it all in the bishops’ laps to choose a team of commissioners to decide on what to do about it. All the demonstrators, debaters, sit-inners and deep thinking, self-appointed keepers of the keys of knowledge are now left, mud-covered and wondering if they will be able to trust the “next steps”.
I know only two things:
1. I’m really glad General Conference is over.
2. I’m hopeful God will help Methodists get back on track
3. When I start pontificating on any of this mess I’m way above my pay grade.
So I’ll just tell you a story from long ago.
I used to have a lot of contact with transient people when I served a church on the North side of Jacksonville, Florida. We were located right on Main Street, so some days it seemed like a parade of homeless right to my office door.
One day a man in his forties asked for help; I asked him if he knew for sure that he was going to heaven. The man sighed deeply as he was thinking; then he looked at me with expressionless, weary eyes and said in a hopeless sort of way:
I really don’t know; I’ve been so busy just trying to survive
I’ve never thought about it!
I have never been surer of hearing the voice of Jesus than when that man spoke to me. It wasn’t that he sounded like Jesus, or wore sandals and a halo; it’s just that I recognized Christ was standing in front of me in that man, and he was explaining what James meant about how my words and deeds needed to match up if ever my words were going to carry weight. Jesus’ brother James put it this way:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27(NLT)
That struggling, hungry, and smelly homeless man spoke with the voice of God’s Holy Spirit directly to my heart; he let me know that he couldn’t hear my words of invitation to accept Christ because his stomach rumbled too loud. He taught me better than my professor of evangelism that sometimes a can of hot tomato soup and buttered bread come first. Your caring theological words might come after seconds.
I must confess I have very little theological words to offer my denomination that haven’t already been proposed to General Conference, perhaps other than to say a few of the delegates need to go home and have a good nap.
For me, I’m not going to let the discouragement of our denominational failure on both sides of the aisle interfere with my continuing to seek out those in our community who have that hopeless, bedraggled look, and who are sometimes losing the war for survival.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!