Steadfastness in a Shaky World
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses it saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:15-16
The relationship of Christians to culture is the singular current crisis point for the church. Timothy Keller
I am old enough to remember when the world was very different from the way it is today—and I don’t say that as if I think we need to return to the 1950s. There are indeed many things in our culture that have changed and needed to change. The racial discrimination of my childhood was wrong. The church as a collective body should have spoken out decades sooner and worked to end the social inequality that was systemic in our way of life. I am now a member of the “older generation,” and I don’t know anyone my age that thinks the color of one’s skin should have any bearing on his or her qualification for anything. And it was largely the church, under the leadership of those who were more intent on pleasing the Eternal Father than ascribing to a cultural norm, who taught my generation that skin color was just not the big deal our parents’ generation thought it was.
As one who came of age during the turbulent 1960s, I have to say I never marched in a demonstration. I didn’t protest the war in Vietnam, and I never laid eyes on LSD or marijuana, which I believe were the vices of choice during that time. I was incredibly sheltered, and it was a good thing. I watched the news. I read the newspapers. I looked around at the chaos everywhere and realized that very likely the world, in its fallen state, would continue to be just as unstable and erratic forever. I may have differed in some of my opinions from my more conservative parents, but I had seen the roots of their faith, and I knew that God was real and that He was involved in our lives and that Jesus—and Jesus alone—was the One who would give my life meaning day in and day out for as long as I lived. He was my only hope to keep my little boat upright in a sea of turbulence. That is the picture of Amazing Grace!
2017 reminds me in so many ways of 1969. The world feels shakier than usual. The church doesn’t have the big microphone at the moment. Other voices tell us we are the haters, the “phobes” of every intolerant description. It is not a time when it is easy to be faithful to God’s Word, diligent to love others, and to be awarded credibility of any kind for doing so.
We are in a moment much like the time of the Judges which scripture describes this way: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
The church, as Jesus instructed, is to be something like His agent on earth. We are a flawed group of people, and the world loves to point that out. I am sure if God had had any perfect human beings He would never have sent his only son to die for the likes of us, but He is likely not surprised that those who oppose Him use the fact of the church’s imperfect leaders to pummel the institution with accusations of hate, intolerance, and worse.
We are excited to present this February issue. The church has always had a fine line to walk as it attempted to be true to the non-negotiables of Christ’s teachings while reaching out in love to a world with shifting values, changing priorities, and few absolutes. It’s a challenge to stand steadfast in a world where you are sometimes intentionally misunderstood simply because the culture doesn’t like what you are selling.
How fitting that we chose February for this particular theme. It is, after all, the month when love is celebrated. The truth—though not at the moment very popular—is that God is love. Love is not always sugarcoated, but real love is always honest. We sincerely hope that the thoughts we have gathered from our esteemed clergy represented here will inspire your own reflections and pursuit of your place in Christ’s church—for the purpose of increasing His footprint in our world.
And, oh, yes, Happy Valentine’s Day! My granddaughter, Marilyn Wilton Bailey turns four and I turn—let’s just say a year older on February 14!