Monday, December 19, 2016

When the Church Loses Its Way

Monday, December 19, 2016
Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist.  So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?    Galatians 4:8-9(NLT)
A fellow UMC pastor, author and seminary professor, Alan Bevere recently posted a piece on the topic of faith and politics – here is an excerpt:
A favorite quote of mine from Stanley Hauerwas is It is God and not the nations who rules the world….I believe that while most Christians believe the truth of that claim, they do so only in the abstract.  Functionally, by the church's political engagements and by aligning themselves with the left and the right, Democrats and Republicans, Christians in actuality betray the unacknowledged belief that it is the nations that are indeed running the show.[ii]
There are so many ways to get off track, to lose your perspective and forget where you’re going.  The church, founded on freedom from the world of selfishness and evil, most easily (and most often) finds itself derailed at the intersection where the faith once delivered to the saints meets the power of political clout.
Indeed, whenever politics and religion meet up, it is invariably the ineffectiveness of weak faith that caves to the political structure.  I believe that is what Dr. Bevere was getting at; it’s not that faith cannot overcome the world; after all, Jesus overcame death and the grave!  For the church, conquering political evil should be a slam dunk.
The problem, as highlighted by Stanley Hauerwas, is that God indeed rules the world, but Christians only nod in that direction on Sunday morning and then go back to nursing at the breast of this world’s system for their daily bread.  The church has no further to look than its’ own pews for a mission field!

What to do, what to do?

Well, if Paul the apostle was right, that our very existence as Christians, as a church, is a fight against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places(Ephesians 6:12), we must once-again learn what it means to engage the enemy. 
And the first principle is remembering that we are to grow up into Christ, not grow strong in political clout.  If the church is ever going to cooperate with God, in God’s ways and timing to combat the evil forces of this world’s system, the church is going to have to be healthy! 
When is the last time you watched a boxing match, or wrestlers, or (heaven help me) an MMA slug-fest?  None of those contestants are anemic weaklings.  When they enter the ring they are strong and focused; they’ve been trained and tuned into a fighting machine. 
The church needs that; we need to stop guzzling smoothie theological red dye and sugar, and find our way again.  We need to begin to chew on some meat.  We need to become equipped disciples who will engage the political monster of this world’s evils and its systemic betrayal of ourj human heritage as images of the Creator. 
And we won’t do it without giving-up our comfortable avoidance of politics…or worse…our comfortable place in bed with politics.

For You Today

Somewhere between the political fringes of left and right is the center of God’s will – the place of doing right.  Are you going on to THAT perfection?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i] Title image: By KAMiKAZOW (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons (modified)

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