I often think about what I will do when my time comes. When the moment demands unmatched courage, quick thinking, and selfless action as exhibited in the picture of Eugene Goodman here (Photo credit: Ashley Gilbertson/ New York Times).
A little reflection reminds me that such a moment will be the result of a thousand smaller, practiced moments.
I keep a Stanley Hauerwas quote above my desk, and he uses a line from Rauschenbush: that we fight with “no sword but the truth.” I pray that all my learning and living will be a refinement in truth-telling. The truth about God. About myself. About others. About God’s world. This is one of a few priorities that shape being a Christian (and yes, being a pastor). Another is love – to love God with a whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as myself.
It is that conviction – love and truth – that leads me to say we can debate political principles or philosophies, but we cannot call evil good. What we saw last week in the assault on the Capitol and Congress (let’s not pretend it was anything less than an insurrection) was an affront to all truth and love and their place in this great republic. And in front of and behind the violence, cloaking its foment and fervor, were signs of Christian devotion: flags, posters, chants, prayers, songs, and more. Read Emma Green’s piece at the Atlantic, “A Christian Insurrection”.
Let me quote from Russell Moore here: “The sight of “Jesus Saves” and “God Bless America” signs by those violently storming the Capitol is about more than just inconsistency. It is about a picture of Jesus Christ and of his gospel that is satanic. The mixing of the Christian religion with crazed and counter-biblical cults such as Q-Anon is telling the outside world that this is what the gospel is. That’s a lie, and it is blasphemous against a holy God.” See his story for the long quote.
That is the truth. And I say it in love.
To all of you I have tried to lead or teach over the years: this is not the Christian faith.
To those of you seeing this and tempted to leave the church: this is neighther the gospel nor its fruits.
This is trading the inheritance of grace for a mess of pottage.
This is scoffing at truth while you wash your hands in the public square.
This is a form of godliness that denies its power, bowing down to the god of this world to get a kingdom in this world.
This is lighting your own torch and lying down in darkness, digging your own well and dying of thirst.
None of us – myself included – practice a pure faith or have clean hands or heart apart from the sheer gift of Jesus. But he called us to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow him – and him alone.
How we got to this place is a long and twisted story made up of its own thousands of small moments. It reminds me of one small moment available to me and you today and every day: to examine our heart and our history, face the truth, and humbly repent. And let that train us for courage and witness in days ahead.