During my four years at Taylor University, I lived on a floor renowned for various shenanigans, known as The Brotherhood, or “Broho” for short. One day, my friend Carson was about to do something a little crazy and collegiate — to be precise, he was about to hurl himself into a ginormous snowman (which was more like a rock-hard iceman by that point) outside of our dorm. Why? Well, just before he did it, he gave voice to his rationale for such an action: “We’re Broho! We do stuff!”
The other night, I was backstage during our concert in Greenfield, IN, and there in the pastor’s office was a poster. It had an image of a rather intense Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this quote:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I don’t think that I’m the only Christian who can be a little reluctant to act at times. I like the intellectual side of Christianity a lot — it is interesting and, at times, exhilarating to ponder deep theological tenets, and rejoicing in the love of God is not something that pains me. But when it comes to actually acting on my faith, passing on the love of God to others, many times I am hesitant. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
Let me give you a small for instance: last night, one of our group members got rather sick in the middle of our performance. During the skit, I was backstage with the two other guys who don’t have a role, while our sick friend was sweating on stage for three minutes for the sake of his one line. I felt as though we should pray together for him, but I got hit with a case of the awkwards. As I was inwardly hemming and hawing around, I remembered something my friend Alex said last summer when he suggested we pray as a group:
“I mean, we’re Christians – isn’t this what we’re about?”
Well put, Alex! So prompted by the Holy Spirit, and reminded of Alex’s wisdom, we prayed for our friend.
Today I was once again reminded of the brokenness of the world. My sister posted something on Facebook about the desperate condition of the people of Fallujah caused by ISIS. The other day when we were in downtown Nashville, right there amidst the glitz and glamour, we saw homeless people, heads bowed, displaying signs such as “Why lie, I need smokes.” These are just just a couple examples of so many things that are just plain wrong with the world. It is easy to get lost in the immensity of the darkness all around, and its sheer weight can make it hard to take a step and do anything at all.
But as Bonhoeffer exhorts, we cannot turn a blind eye. The apostle John puts it this way: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18 NIV). Or as God said through the prophet Isaiah,
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
-Isaiah 58:6,7 NIV
One of the most important things I have been learning as I have been growing in concern for the problems of the world is that I cannot fix everything. OK, let’s be real: I can’t fix anything. Jesus said ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV). If anything is to be accomplished, it will be done through His power. The God who made the world good in the beginning is at work to bring restoration now.
That said, in a wonderful, mysterious way, God has chosen us, His church, a rather weak, disobedient, and stubborn (though changing!) bunch of people to bring about His restoration. As I once heard a pastor say, Christianity is not merely an intellectual assent to some ideas. We are called to act. To build off the ideas of Alex and Carson, perhaps one of our rallying cries as the Body of Christ should be “We’re Christians. We do stuff!” Or, as we are doing God’s work in its many forms, we should think to ourselves, or tell a passerby, “We’re Christians — this is what we’re about.”
So what can we do? I most certainly do not have all the answers, but here are a few ideas:
- Pray. Remember that whole “vine and branches” thing? Apart from God we can do nothing, so I think our first calling is to seek Him and remain in His love (see John 15:1-17).
- Give. Time. Money. A listening ear. Whatever it is, we can respond to the world’s needs out of God’s love for us by giving of whatever resources we have been blessed with. As some thoughtful soul etched in a library bathroom stall at Taylor University: “Love is giving and the greatest thing to give is time!”
- Talk. The waters of conversation can be difficult to navigate, and most of the time we stick to the safe, shallow currents of weather, sports, food, etc. — you know how it is. However, I think that if we just occasionally gave voice to the deeper issues, it would go a long way. Especially when our own lives are comfortable, it can be easy to drift along, ignoring the hardships of others, but there is great power in simply raising awareness. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and nobody will respond to an issue they are unaware of.
One last story: I look up to my dad a lot — sometimes he does really cool things. For instance, he is 64 years old and is working like crazy to earn his doctorate. But more than that, he is taking the hard road. Originally, his dissertation was going to be on the rather safe topic of credentialing pastors. However, he felt that God was calling him to do something else, something much more challenging, but extremely important. And so, he is now many months into researching the topic of child abuse in the Kenyan church, with an eye toward developing policies for protection. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to immerse oneself in such a topic, but he is obeying the Lord. I’m excited to see how his work benefits the Church!
That’s all for now. If you like music, here is a link to a song by Matthew West that had a part in inspiring my dad’s decision (and the video, which I watched just now, is actually pretty cool!): “Do Something”