Bethlehem United Methodist Church
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Mission Statement: To give of ourselves so others may know Jesus Christ.

  

 

 

Dear Bethlehem Friends,

     Think about this statement in these challenging times. It is an observation by Church Consultant, Carey Neiuwhof. It looks like people are losing their minds. 2020 seems more polarized, partisan, angry, bizarre, and downright weird.” “I wish I could tell you Christians were the healing agents just now, but that is not the case. Christians have been sucked up into the nastiness, division, and partisanship along with everyone else. Often Christians aren’t providing an alternative to the anger and outrage, they are fueling it.” “The world is watching. Your friends are watching and listening, and so are unchurched people.
 

And as an exclamation point, he says, “Here is what’s at stake: “When Christians lose their minds, people lose their faith. I shudder to think how many people are losing faith right now because Christians are losing their minds and loosing opinions online.”

There are three reasons why this matters and five things we can do about it. Influence takes years to build and seconds to lose. Ask someone caught in a scandal how a career built over many years can be destroyed in an instant. With every post, rant, video, text, sermon, tweet, or link to some weird website, your credibility is at stake and your Christian influence may be lost, and so your Christian mission.

Despite what you may think, God is not a Republican, Democrat, or Independent; Conservative, Liberal, or Socialist. Five minutes in the New Testament would tell us that the church should include people who are different than we are, economically, racially, socially, and these will vote differently. God transcends all our human political categories and has proven in the scriptures that God is always on the side of the oppressed... the have-nots, rather than the haves. The church does not exist to elect or defeat politicians. It exists to glorify Christ and grow his kingdom (which is an alternative kingdom) in the world.

The Church is an alternative to culture, not a reflection of culture. People don’t just want to know what you think is right, they want to know what is real. As a Christian we are not pointing to ourselves... we are pointing people to Jesus. We are having a very difficult time separating our opinions and the opinions of others, from what is real. Opinions are often proven wrong over the course of time... what is real is always real. We can give our opinions in a loud voice, but it won’t cut it. Getting louder will erode the influence of the voice of the church and will cause people to lose faith.

This is important, so I am taking two pages. WHAT CAN WE DO? This is not an easy problem. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wisely wrote long ago: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” This is just another way of saying, as the Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In other words, if I am not careful, I become part of the problem. With some restraint, humility, sobriety, and wisdom, we can become part of the solution.

Here are five suggestions for these challenging days.


Focus on timeless truths more than temporary viewpoints. Viewpoints change. Truth never changes.

The more deeply your viewpoint and your politics are anchored in timeless truths, the more accurate and powerful they will be. The more deeply your viewpoint and your politics are anchored in opinions, the more likely they are to crash.

Sleep on it and pray about it.

A lot of what is being shared these days is emotional. They want your heart to beat faster. They want you to feel upset, crushed, even angry. Not much good happens when you are upset and act on the spur of the moment. The situation is often made worse. So, here is a rule: Sleep on it and pray about it. As that time passes and you are in prayer, something happens: Miraculously, you get your brain back. You have lost nothing, and you likely gained much: grace, dignity, integrity, balance. If Christians prayed as much as they talked, we would have a different church. And you will find yourself saying less and less, “I wish I had never done that, or I wish I had never said that. 

Start confessing and stop blaming and shaming.

The New Testament talks frequently about confession. The act of confession is part of the movement of the church in its liturgy. Today, there seems to be a movement toward not confessing our sins, while blaming others for theirs. Few people make apologies, taking responsi- bility and confessing. Then after becoming aware and dispatching of what Jesus called the log in our own eye, perhaps we can really help with the speck in the eye of our brother or sister.

Start real relationships with people who are different than you.

For those of you who use social media, did you know that that media will find you more content that agrees with you, so you can convince yourself that you are right? We love to be told we are right, and that others are wrong. The best way to become more thoughtful and empathetic and understanding is to BUILD BRIDGES. Get around real people who are differ- ent than you: Who vote differently than you, think differently than you, and look differently than you. How many of you have been able to hang around with non-whites... to learn the issues from their side of the con- text? We would be surprised what we would learn.

Ask yourself, “Five years from now, what will I wish I had done?”

I love this suggestion. I call it “Taking the long look.” Always remember this: The moral arc of God’s universe is always bent toward justice. God would not allow Hitler to last. God will not allow communism to last. Oh, for a short while it may seem to triumph, but never forever. Sooner or later, the change will come, and so the Christian must search out the high road. It isn’t always the easy road, but it is always the best road.

Never forget, Christians... the world is watching. As the world seems to be losing its mind, let’s choose to remain calm and bear witness to our faith with steady temperament. When Christians lose their minds, people lose their faith. So, let’s bring energy and vision to the solutions as we pray for a better day. 

 
 

Better Disciples, More Disciples, Yours in Christs love,

Pastor Roger