It’s Time for the Church to Shine

7945046588_dd7ef1ef1e_mIn the reportage of the battle for the American presidency, the airwaves of late have been full of epithets, unproven charges and vulgarity. The charges and emotional responses to them hang in the air unresolved long after they are spoken, and the battles rage on.

Society of course has legal procedures for dealing with such things. But to paraphrase Miss Manners, etiquette exists to resolve such matters outside of court and we seem as a western society to be neglecting etiquette these days. As well, western culture has centuries of jurisprudence to draw on.

But in times of high emotion we can easily descend to incivility and injustice toward others. In the church, as in society, we can depend upon etiquette and unenforced virtue to render apology and make restitution, or the church’s legal apparatus can be utilized. If we do neither, wounds go unhealed and our Lord is displeased.

In conversation with an ordained minister of one of America’s largest denominations recently I learned that he has such a passion for fair play and integrity in his church that he is spending much time in his retirement years as counsel to ministers who he believes are not getting just treatment under his denomination’s laws.

It seems to me that when in society the injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” is so often disregarded, it is a good time for the church to shine with obedience to both grace and fair play. We have such a longstanding and rich source of procedures for promoting neighbor love, and a collection of examples in the Christian Scriptures from which to take our bearings.

For example, early on in the development of the early church, the Apostles heard complaints of alleged wrongs committed by Hebrew Jews against Grecian Jews regarding the unfair distribution of aid among the Greek-speaking widows (Acts 6:1–5). The Apostles didn’t say, “stop complaining” or in any other way disregard the complaint. They called the whole Jerusalem church together and asked them to put forward seven men of sterling Christian character to be sure the Greek widows were not neglected. That done, they then appointed seven disciples (who had Greek names) for this purpose.

And thanks to this wise and fair action of leaders, the work of evangelism went on with effect. The church grew, the account says. A contingent of Jewish priests even came to faith and joined the ranks of the church.

It was not as though the Apostles were plowing new ground. They had a source book — the Old Testament, richly endowed with teaching about justice. Consider for example, King David’s abject repentance when brought face to face with his sin by the prophet Nathan, prompting his psalm of repentance, “Create in me a new heart, O Lord.” Or the Lord’s charge through eighth century prophet, Zechariah: “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts” (Zechariah 8:16).

Or the custom of having elders who gathered at the city gate settle disputes that were brought to them. The Christian cause has always had a place for individual repentance in response to the “court of personal conscience” and also for committees, and even courts to reconcile differences between brothers and sisters, and to redress objective wrongs.

This is an excellent time in secular history for the church to examine its commitment to fair and righteous dealings, both in the community of believers itself and in the broader community where the people of God are to shine as lights in the darkness. But leaders must have the heart of a King David, and the courage of a prophet Nathan as they pursue righteousness for themselves and those they lead.

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Photo credit: Bernd Baltz (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “It’s Time for the Church to Shine

  1. When I first read this ‘Just Call Me Pastor’, in March ,I thought it very timely. It still is , now the Democratic and Republican nominations approach culmination . All concerned for America’s governance, are keenly following the Presidential race .Christians will be praying for all remaining candidates ,to be blessed with wisdom to serve and govern justly, for the good of the American people and the greater world.

    Right now it looks like the final race to the Whitehouse will be between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton .But it’s not absolutely certain yet.For the Democrats ,Mr Sanders is still in the race,For the Republicans , Mr Cruz and Mr Kasich are still in it.

    I’m not alone in feeling uncomfortable about the way the very high office of American president is being contested. From this side of the Atlantic American politics seems to have become most impolitic and very bad mannered. Mrs Clinton is being name called ‘Crooked Hilary ‘ by one opponent. Mr Trump is vilified.This is no way to talk of a possible future president.At some stage the race will be over and one candidate will hold the highest office in the USA. The nation will need to come together under whoever the new president is and respect whoever the people choose..Insults and rudeness won’t do.That would belittle a great nation .

    We see footage of brawls at party conventions and hear foul language used by a candidate for highest office. We hear that candidate verbally abused Etiquette and decent manners seem to have been discarded .This in the great nation we. British call cousin and ally, with whom we take pride in having a ‘special relationship’ and with whom we have \a close treaty.
    Some world Christian leaders,including the Bishop of Rome, have been so alarmed they’ve taken the unusual step of speaking about another nations internal election.This would normally be avoided as undiplomatic. But America, it’s chief and candidates for chief , hold a very importantplace in our ‘global village’.We are all concerned. Whoever is chosen by her people to be America’s next president has significance worldwide.

    Usually,after an American election ,contestants and electorate , accept the democratic will of the people, as expressed through the ballot box, The nation comes together again ,respecting the elected president, to work together as one nation , presenting a united front to the world .This time divisions seem to run so deep and such hostility abounds , so that many outsiders fear trouble ahead.

    Every Sunday in church, we pray God gives our leaders and those in positions of authority ,the wisdom to lead and govern with justice and mercy , serving the people with hunility and love, in accordance with God’s Will. Every time we say the Lord’s prayer, the prayer Christ taught us,we make this petition,

    ’Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’’

    The Bible reveals God’s Will is justice and mercy, honesty and compassion. Jesus spoke clearly ,simplifying God’s law into two clear precepts, recorded in Matthew 22 37-39 AV

    ‘’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart ,and with all thy soul and with all thy mind .This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it,Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’’

    Every Christian, every Christian politician seeking high office , must judge their words and actions according to Christs two great commandments. For every Christian this must be our starting point. This must be our Ethics 101.

    So ,how many and which the candidates for the presidency , confess themselves Christians .We are entitled to expect Christian behaviour from these.

    Being interested in the diversity of Christian denominations in the States , early in the American election , I researched the faith background and stated convictions of every candidate I could .I reviewed more than 20 candidates,to see which church they attend, and any words they have spoken about the importance of their faith .

    I found an article by Lucinda Barkett Jones ,features editor of’ Christian Today’ ,written on 21 July 2015, a wonderful source of information .Noting a report by ‘Pew Research’, that 53% of Americans would be less inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who does not believe in God,she concluded that faith matters.So she reviwed the faith of candidates back in summer 2015.This became my starting point.Here is what I learned.

    Mr Sanders,though raised in the Jewish faith ,the faith of our Lord and Savior, doesn’t speak of his faith often .He has spoken of his admiration for Pope Francis .

    Among the early candidates who later dropped out,Mr Chafee was raised Episcopalian , but prefers to avoid talking about faith .He likes to keep his faith separate from his political life ,even so far as to refer to his Christmas tree as a ‘ holiday tree’.I assume his faith is known to God alone.

    Every other candidate,from the start of the election, is a publicly professed,church going Christian. Each had a Christian upbringing or converted as adults. Such a great proportion of Christians is not normally the case with candidates for highest office in UK.

    Of the other candidates who have dropped out ,here’s what I found with regard to their confessed Christian faith..Republicans first.

    For the Republicans ,Mr Paul was baptized Episcopalian but now attends Presbyterian church where his wife Kelley is deacon.Mr Paul says he arrived at his faith,not easily,but ’’ through a fiery furnace of doubt’’.

    Mr Carson , a pro life believer in traditional marriage, a commited ,twice baptized Seventh Day Adventist.He has said his relationship with God is the most important thing in his life.

    Carly Fiorinna , an Episcpalian ,is a declared Christian dependant on her relationship with Christ,though she says she is no longer a regular churchgoer.

    Mr Huckabee ,an ordained Baptist pastor, gave his first sermon in his teens, and was a pastor for 12 years .He testifies his total dependance on Christ.

    Mr Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic who tries to attend Mass daily.

    Mr Pataki is also Catholic, raised & practising. He said he once considered joining the Freemasons but decided against joining on faith grounds.I strongly commend this decision ,believing Freemasonry unsuitable for Christians.

    Lindsey Graham is a practising Southern Baptist ,attending Corinth Baptist Church.

    Mr Perry attended both Methodist and Baptist church while growing up He is now a congregant of Lake Hills evangelical church, in Austin ,Texas.Mr Perry said he turned to God because he had nowhere else to go.I like that.No one has anywhere else proper to go.

    Mr Jeb Bush ,raised Episcopalian , converted to his wife’s Catholic church.He says he loves the sacraments and long standing continuity of the Roman Catholic church.

    Mr Jindal ,raised Hindu, converted to Roman Catholicism at High School. He describes a great change coming over him while reading the New Testament,which sounds to me like the New Birth ,by his description. His conversion angered his Hindu parents who cut him off . Mr Jindal’s wife also converted from Hinduism.Mr Jindal describes himself as an evangelical Roman Catholic.

    Mr Christie is also a practising, Roman Catholic .He attends St Joseph’s,New Jersey.

    Mr Walker ,son of a Baptist preacher was himself a deacon in that church .He declares his faith in God drives evry choice he makes.

    Mr Rubio,who quite recently dropped out of the race, was born into a Catholic family and baptized as a child.He attended Mormon church for a few years,while young.I don’t know much about the Mormon church,not even whether it’s Trinitarian Christian in the accepted sense.But in any case , Mr Rubio returned to the Catholic church at adulthood and is now a communicating Roman Catholic.

    As for the Democrats , of those who began the race but dropped out,Mr O ‘Malley is a Roman Catholic who says he searches for the face of Christ in the faces of the poor.He believes in acting on his faith.Mr O’Malley attends St Francis of Assisi Church,Baltimore.

    Mr Webb is a non denominational Christian who declares he puts his faith and family above everything.

    Mr Chafee ,as I mentioned earlier,is an Episcopalian who keeps further details of his faith journey private.

    At this late stage there are three Republican and two Democrat candidates in the running for their respective party’s nomination. For the Democrats,Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders are still in the race,For the Republicans – Mr Trump .Mr Cruz and Mr Kasich remain. These three speak before Bay Area Republicans at the Hyatt Regency ,San Francisco Airport,during April 29 to May 1. Carly Fiorina,no longer a presidential candidate ,will speak too,at the Saturday evening banquet ,probably to rally Republicans against Democrat opponent Mrs Clinton .This congressional district Primary is winner takes all ,winning all 3 delegates.

    For the Democrats , Mr Sanders, raised in the Jewish faith, is a distant second to Mrs Clinton, for his party’s nomination.

    Mrs Clinton was raised Methodist,in which church she was a Sunday School teacher.She attends a United Methodist church in Washington .Mrs Clinton says her faith inspired her entry into politics. In interview she has clearly stated her belief in the Resurrection,an essential Christian belief ..A firm opponent of same sex marriage all her life,Mrs Clinton suddenly changed her mind in 2013. I hope she didn’t tailor her convictions to gain political popularity with her constituency.I believe that would have been a mistake.

    Onto the remaining Republican candidates , Mr Kasich , was raised Catholic,then later converted to the Anglican church.He attends St Augustine’s in Ohio and has been part of a longstanding bible study group for over 20 years.

    Mr Cuz is a commited Southern Baptist who believes faith is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. He is the son of a pastor,I think. Mr Cruz is currently a distant second to Mr Trump for his paty’s nomination .He recently agreed an arrangement with third placed Mr Kasich , to try stop Mr Trump’s nomination.My understanding of the American election process is insufficient to predict whether this could succeed.

    Mr Trump has been a Democrat, a Reform Party member ,an Independent and a Republican . At present he‘s the Republican frontrunner. A successful entrepeneur , vastly wealthy ,he has been a generous contributor to each of these parties.Mr Trump is ,I gather, a Presbyterian,despite rumours of his Catholicism on the one hand and his membership of the Dutch Reformed Church on the other. Contrary information seems to abound about Mr Trump ,possibly spread by his opponents. I’m not sure.Mr Trump seems to have as many strong opponents as strong supporters

    Mr Trump declares he goes to church ‘’as much as I can .Always on Christmas.Always on Easter’’. He says he’ll be the perfect representative of Christians, if elected president.

    Researching and reviewing the faith background and convictions of Americas presidential candidates has been fascinating and encouraging .It’s good and assuring to learn the faith of candidates to high office in America is nearly unanimously Christian. It helps illumine the candidates as real people with real lives on real faith paths.That so many candidates are Christian brothers and sisters,offers hope they will follow their Christian conscience, open to Godly influence.

    If there is a crisis in American politics,there is hope.If the American election has degenerated into vulgarity and rudeness ,nevertheless a soultion offers itself. The biblical figures David and Nathan ,mentioned in this Just Call Me Pastor , points to that solution.

    David was Israel’s powerful King. After a promising start, he fell short .In his lust and adultery , he schemed to put the rightful husband of the woman he lusted after,in harms way.This rich powerful man took a poor man’s one lamb. God’s prophet , Nathan ,was the wise man of faith who was able to shame and correct King David . Because David feared God enough to have a conscience , Nathan was able to draw the King’s conscience out, to repentance.

    Since almost every presidential candidate is a professed church going Christian , we can have hope that God can act in them.They have pastors at their church to whom they can turn for guidance.Pastors can guide them ,wherever these powerful candidates are open to their faith ,with
    circumcized hearts.Let us hope and pray.

    It is every Christians duty to pray for the presidential candidates.With prayer comes hope.
    May God open their hearts to wisdom and righteousness,to justice , mercy and lovingkindnesst.To etiquette and polity.Every David needs a Nathan.Every King needs a prophet to keep them obedient to God’s Will.

    This ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ shows hope, reminds us to rely on God,on God’s servants ,and on the good power of Scripture, to provide the good bearings that can heal those fracture lines that have begun to appear in America’s political contest. Let us pray with hope ,for wise,true and just leaders.

    May Christ’s light shine in the darkness.

    • Dear Francis: Your depiction the present presidential race is all too true.The language of some has been like the yeast of evil that tends to be passed on to all, which is sad. We will soon see how it all turns out. On the other hand, your review of the essentials of all major candidates is typically thorough. Thanks for doing that little assignment. Blessings on you

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