Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Slow Death or Search for Life

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.   Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety is fear.  Anxiety is dread.  Anxiety is a very slow, very painful death of the spirit because of the world and its problems.  Anticipation, on the other hand, waits with breathless expectation.  Anticipation is certain of something wonderful just beyond the horizon.  Anticipation trusts and builds up the spirit because it knows of the certainty of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It should seem clear which is the preferred mode of the Christian, but we all have our fears to face.  Whether it is a life-altering surgery of a loved one, a possible loss of a job, or even the uncertainty of this government’s next move, we are afraid.  We hope for the best in all circumstances, I think, but anxiety fears for the worst.  Too much anxiety can bleed the spirit of the most ardent Christian completely dry!

Recently two very large United Methodist churches in the Mississippi Annual Conference voted to separate from the United Methodist Church altogether.  They each state they are not protesting any particular thing but are, rather, weary of the constant infighting within the larger Church and have decided living with that kind of anxiety is counter-productive to what The Lord would ask of His people.  They are each choosing to be more focused on matters of the Kingdom and the mission of the Church rather than matters of the world.

Though some might be inclined to think the issues within the United Methodist Church are Kingdom matters, the reality is we have become almost completely overwhelmed with worldly things, worldly issues.  We are just a little too fixated on the “empire” and getting our own way with no regard and no respect for those with whom we disagree.  The constant yammering and protesting and destruction of property and spirit have completely hijacked the narrative of the Gospel.  We think we are fighting for social justice, but the truth is we are just plain “fighting” … even among ourselves.  And why?  Because we are filled with anxiety.  Because we are filled with fear.  Because we are filled with hatred of and resentment toward the “other”, and we stopped listening to one another a long time ago.  Worst of all, we have stopped listening to The Lord.  All because we are filled with anxiety.

Jesus said, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2).  But we are not “killing” bodies; we are “killing” spirits.  Yet because we are so cock-sure of the rightness of our own cause, we are showing absolutely no regard for those who do not agree with us.  While we are “fighting” for a government of our choosing, an “empire” that serves us, we are destroying the Church and diminishing the Gospel.  Soon our “lampstand” will be taken from us (Revelation 2:5).

This has nothing to do with immigration issues, border security, or cabinet appointments.  This has everything to do with “cultural” Christians who are shaped by the “empire”, and disciples who strive to be shaped by the Word and the Spirit of The Lord.  The nastiness must cease and we Christians must not only apologize to The Lord and to one another, but we must fully “repent” and then “bear fruit worthy of that repentance”.  Until or unless we do, we will not find the “peace that will guard your hearts and your minds” … because we are not living in Christ.

When we choose to make things right again and become more concerned with matters of the Kingdom and become more engaged with transforming lives than in vainly trying to change minds, we will find our lampstands burning more brightly than before!  When we act with integrity and in genuine love, the “nones” and “dones” will find their way back to the Church; but if we destroy ourselves only for the sake of being “right”, there will be nothing to return to.

The government will never be able to give us the kind of peace St. Paul is referring to, the kind of peace Jesus imparted to His faithful (John 14:27).  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.  Always and forevermore.


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