Hurricane Ida’s destructive power has got nothing on the winds of hate blowing through our news feeds. Thundering outrage. Storm surging fear. New enemies every week. New threats every day. Some people are too stressed to function. Others, too suspicious to trust anything. This treadmill of vitriol is increasing violence and addiction and is breaking us apart.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus said his followers should be a light, a city on a hill, a beacon for those walking in darkness. So, are we? Are we in the Church different or do we look pretty much like the surrounding culture? Oh sure, we have Bible verses to back our memes. But do those walking in darkness see a great light? Do our neighbors see the Church as a real countercultural community so full of goodness that even non-believers give glory to God? (Mt 5:14-16)
Right now, I don’t think so. Too many individual lights are being dimmed by the winds of political controversy. From the outside, the city on a hill looks more like a suburban Babylon: the same fear, anger, and hate, but with a little God sprinkled in.
Seriously, Lord Jesus, what might help us? Was it any different 2,000 years ago? Was it easier to be a Christian then? Well, I guess they killed you, didn’t they? And they persecuted your disciples. Actually, that sounds worse than today. So what did your people do then?
1. They made friends.
On the night before the cross, Jesus could’ve talked about anything. But he emphasized the love his disciples ought to have for each other. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) This was a command, not a suggestion and was supposed to be the defining characteristic of his people. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Thessaloniki, he praised them saying, “And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia.” (1Th4:10) This was a church that looked like a church.
What does this have to do with friendship? Well, what is a friend other than someone you choose to love? The Thessalonians had made friends throughout the whole region! What if our friendships in the Church reflected God’s unconditional love for us? What if we served (and even enjoyed!) people without requiring theological or ideological agreement? Would Paul praise us if he wrote to us today? Would Jesus be pleased with our obedience to his command?
2. They weren’t trying to change the world, but they did.
After praising their love for all, Paul encouraged his friends to live a pretty normal life. In fact, he said, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1Th 4:11). A quiet life. A life of stability and hope. A life of independence and hard work, serving the needs of others. Yes, there are times when our faith needs to be defended. But even then, our guiding principles are gentleness and respect (1Pe 3:15). Whatever we do must show the fruit of the Spirit, not our flesh (Gal 5:22-23). “Opponents must be gently instructed” (2Ti 2:25), not ridiculed or reviled. This quiet, loving, gospel-saturated life was a counterculture life 2,000 years ago. But the Church gleamed as a city on a hill, and the world was never the same. They weren’t trying to change the world, but they did.
Is there hope for the Church today? Absolutely, yes. Eventually, even the strongest storm will pass. And in the end, Jesus will return and calm the storms once and for all. But in the meantime, we can make friends in the hurricane. We, too, can live a quiet life according to the command of Christ. We, too, can walk with gentleness and respect. In fact, we just might enjoy it!
Lord, lead us in this way of love. And let your light shine among us so that those living in the land of deep darkness say, “A light has dawned.” Amen.