Archive for January, 2011

It’s time for peace.

Yeah, I know I’m being the idealistic pastor who believes that it is still possible for people to work together for a common goal under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I still believe it is completely possibly to transform this world.

And over the past few days, I’ve witnessed a lot of things that show we are not at peace.

  • There’s a shooting in Arizona that has dominated the headlines.  It’s a tragedy and the sign of a world in which there’s way too much violence.
  • There’s the rhetoric that’s followed. One talk radio host made the case that the man behind this shooting is fully supported by the Democratic Party.  And I ask, “How does that help in the situation?”
  • Flipping through the cable news channels the past few days, I discovered some amazing information and touching stories on the victims of a senseless crime.  On one network, every time I flipped past it, the discussion was on how one political party is attempting to leverage this situation to its benefit.  Once again, I ask, “How does this help?”
  • A recent story in a Columbia (SC) newspaper tells of how an assault rifle maker is making a special brand of assault rifle that will commemorate the phrase that Rep. Joe Wilson made famous. It’s that moment when he stood up and yelled, “You lie” at a sitting U.S. President during a State of the Union address.  Forget civility.  Now you can get your rhetoric on a weapon.  I ask, “Who does this help?”
  • There are acts of violence at town hall meetings.  Heated rhetoric and threats.  There are those in the news media who have used the words “kill” and “hurt” when talking about those that they disagree with.  I ask, “Who does this help?”
  • And I look at all of this and I ask, Where is the church?  Where are the peacemakers?

In Matthew 5, Jesus delivers one of his most famous sermons (or if you are in a more contemporary church… teachings!) called the Sermon on the Mount.  In those “Blessed are” statements, we find one that addresses this.

Matthew 5:9 reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.”

“Peacemaker” is an interesting word.  It’s found just one time in scripture, here in this verse.  A simple definition of it reads, “one who makes peace” or “one who loves peace.”

So, maybe to understand this word, we have to start to look at what “peace” actually means.  Peace is about harmony in relationships and it comes on many, many levels.

  • Having peace with God means that we are on the same page, we recognize God as God, Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is in us and working through us.
  • We have peace with others. It means that are relationships are strong and loving.  And that in our love for others, we can have disagreements over positions.  Yet, even in those disagreements, we still realize that the other person is a child of God and loved just as much by God as we are.
  • There’s peace in a nation.  It’s the peace that brings an absence of violence and conflict and war.  Right now, we have elevated rhetoric and hurtful words over things that don’t require that type of language.  Heated and vigourous debate is one thing.  Threatening lives, saying words that lead to acts of violence and in general, attempting to destroy the character of another person because you disagree politically is completely unacceptable.

As a father, I wonder about the rate that this world is spiralling out of control and what it will be like for my daughter when she one day has a family of her own.  I am fearful of those who attack and threaten others.   Even people I disagree strongly with are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, children, friends and most importantly, children of God.

If we as Christians aren’t willing to be the peacemakers in this world, then who’s going to step up to do it for us?  By our silence, we condone this rhetoric.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God.

I’m going to go ahead and clue you in on something about me.  I’m tired of having to live a life filled with lowered expectations, low bench marks and even, “It’s OK, everyone does it” remarks — especially when it comes to church.

I want more.  And apparently, so do a lot of others.

It would make sense that church, the place where we talk about the transforming good news of the gospel, would be one of the places with the highest expectations in our lives.  But, alas, we have found ways, even there, to lower the bar.

And so my generation, more than any other before it, started to walk away from church.  And the generation that followed mine has followed suit at an even more alarming rate.  As a campus minister, in addition to my role as a pastor, I know the statistics well. Today I am more likely to encounter a college-aged student who has grown up outside the church than I am to find one who grew up in it.

In efforts to widen the backdoor and attract more people, we have, at times, turned our back on the very thing that makes us different from the rest of the world.  We have sold touchy feely and cliches over God’s grace, love and mercy.

Church has become an option among options. 

  • Don’t have the time this week, just skip church. 
  • Too many other activities in our child’s life?  Well, cut out Sunday School and youth – that frees up a couple of hours.

The church, which once held a monopoly on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, started to face competition from the rest of the world.  Stores are open during church hours. Movies are playing. Sports teams are playing.

And the church failed, in many regards, to respond to those challenges.  We can’t compete with a model from the 1950s and 1960s in the postmodern world of 2011.  We need new models, new ways of engaging the culture.  The church shouldn’t simply reject popular culture as stuff of the world.  We should be finding ways to redeem it.

And we still have something that none of the rest of the “options” in this world offer. Churches have the answer to the biggest questions in life:  Why am I here?  What about sin?  What happens when I die?

When we can clearly answer those questions and introduce those who attend to life-altering power of the Holy Spirit, then we become a dangerous church in our culture.

Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong Church, describes it this way: “A ‘dangerous church’  is a church that is alive, full of the lost and broken, a generous church that takes risks. It is a church that is willing to be exposed to misunderstanding and persecution for the sake of the gospel.”

I want to be a part of something much bigger than myself. I want to be a part of something that’s dangerous, that’s unsafe, that’s not afraid to take this world head-on, because we know that a certain battle was won on the first Easter morning.