Friday, August 27, 2010

Christian Nay Sayers

Every now and then some of us Christians forget the power of grace and succumb to the dark side of negativism, nay saying, and misery.  It is hard not to fall into this trap.  I heard on the radio that some believe the DOW will be at 5,000 in a couple of years and that the economy is going to be far worse than the bad we struggle with today.  I open my newspaper and find stories of violence, hatred, and evil that are both far away from me and very local to where I live.  I read some so-called Christian sources for religious news and listen to the banter in some theological forums and it is hard not to give in to the power of "no."

Yet Christians are not called to be barometers of evil but bold proclaimers of the hope that is within us.  It seems that we have been far too content to sit on the sidelines and condemn and far too hesitant to speak honestly and joyfully of the hope that is ours in Christ.  The polls tell us that the world has grown to expect criticism, condemnation, judgment, and negativism from those who call themselves Christian.  In fact, it has become so prominent that many Christian voices are turned off as soon as they speak.

Christians... you know... they are the ones against abortion, against sex, against gays and lesbians, against equal opportunity for all to marry, against fun, and against getting a little crazy or carried away every now and then.  Unless I am mistaken, this was the accusation (perhaps rightly so) against Puritans but not necessarily against Christians.  Have Christians become merely the new prudes in our culture?

I believe that we have lost some of our voice because we have been shouting far too loudly at what is wrong instead of speaking confidently of the good and right and true that God has done in Christ.  I am not suggesting that we stop speaking the Law.  I am not suggesting that we avoid calling evil what it is.  I am asking if we have gotten a little too comfortable ending the conversation with the Law and its condemnation and the labeling of all that is wrong as evil.  We speak the Law not to condemn.  We speak the Law so that the hearer may be prepared for the Gospel.  We condemn sin not to have something to condemn.  We condemn sin because it has torn us away from all that is good and right and true for humanity as our Creator intended and Christ redeemed.  We condemn sin so that it does not get the last word -- the cross is the last word (at least here on earth).  And we Christians need to make sure that we get the last word and that we get it right.

People may be shamed into doing the right thing but as soon as our back is turned, they will abandon what is good.  Good works are the fruit of a positive faith, an affirmation of God's goodness revealed supremely in His Son, whom the Holy Spirit makes known to us.  We are to be people of good works and of God's good will.  But that is not how people perceive us.  Are the perceptions wrong or are we wrong?  That is the haunting question that each of us ought to consider.  For it is not enough to be against evil.  We are to be for the good that God has delivered to us and to the whole world in Christ Jesus.  Not all will respond to the prompting of the Spirit with faith but this is how God has chosen to extend the banner of His love to the world.

I think this is why Matt Harrison was elected.  His vantage point was not academic theology nor a narrow parochialism but the mercy seat.  His voice was the passionate voice of love at work as well as doctrine pure.  His track record was one of action on behalf of those least able to speak for themselves or care for their needs in disaster or crisis.  His face was the face of mercy and I believe that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod desires not merely to be known for its doctrinal purity but also for its passion for the lost and the least.  It is my hope that his call for conversation is not only about theological issues but about reclaiming the voice of hope and compassion for this Church.

So let us be people of good will, people of hope (not optimism but hope in Christ), and people who not only condemn the wrong but raise up its remedy with equal and exceeding passion.  I write these words first to myself.  It is easy to let a hard week get you into a funk, to steal away your joy, and to turn your demeanor to a scowl.  Yeah, it happens.  So whether you are Larry Peters or not, we who call ourselves Christians need to raise hope up, lift high the cross, and the love of Christ proclaim.


Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...

It's funny you should say it that way, because I've thought that part of the problem in the LCMS is that we've been quick to confess truth but slow to reject error. There are times I think we need to say "nay" more often.

ErnestO said...

The Lutheran people I know are experiencing a greater thirst for a more spiritual life. I suggest we begin by praying for a world that has refused to pray for itself.

I pray that Pastor Harrison with the help of God can continue to build the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod not merely to be known for its doctrinal purity but also for its passion for the lost and the least.

"God has always depended on his people to step into the battlefield, to assume responsibility, to take the lead, and to make his love visible to an unbelieving, mocking world."
— John M. Perkins

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, Fr. Peters. If I can put my "spin" on it, can we keep the passion of Ablaze! while removing those elements that make our hair stand on end?

My experience of the LCMS is that we are too good at saying "NO" ("NEIN?") to just about everything that is not our way, and no one knows our internal vocabulary, so we tend to find fault in most things that we encounter.

How about we find ways of saying YES! to those who are close to us or could become so, and have the humility to see things from their viewpoint as well?