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Its Light AND Salt

I guess I'm different. I suppose I don't think normally. Maybe its where I come from. Maybe its where I'm going. I could be behind the times of what is considered 'cool' or I could be ahead of the times in what is considered right. I don't know.

What I do know is that I have an undying passion to see the people created in the image of God fall in love with their Father in Heaven. In the same breath I also care about those same people and their lives before and after that moment when they encounter Jesus.

I grew up in the public housing projects of O'Donnell Heights in Baltimore City. Without going into great detail here I can assure you that I've been one of the few who have been fortunate enough to escape the chains of poverty.

The second disclosure is that I attended Liberty University. At Liberty I observed first hand the back story of Dr. Jerry Falwell. While many of my current peers run from association of his involvement with public policy, I run to it. I run to it because I know more than the 30 second news media portrayal. Dr. Falwell started out like many ambitious young Pastors today. He focused on the gospel and meeting needs out of his church. Eventually (with this in mind) he began to see a bigger picture. He started to see that we are called to have both a salt and light ministry. We are to be the light by preaching Jesus and we're to be the salt by changing our communities. In the book of James we see that there is a connection between what we say and what we do. What we do does not save us but it's pretty tough to claim we are of Christ if we don't act like it.

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

In an effort to be both salt and light on a while new level Dr. Falwell decided that he'd take the gospel (both salt and light) into the public arena in every way possible. In America, one of those places is by participating in government and public policy discussions.

I must say that right now I'm concerned with us in Christendom. It seems each generation of great Christian leaders reacts toward the perceived mistakes of the prior. Even among the Protestants we've divided and sub-divided so much we have to celebrate the world over when God's leaders are actually able to cooperate to teach the gospel. I rejoice with my friends and am pumped about the unity but it breaks my heart that we are just now setting the tone for cooperation within the church.

Lately I've observed a trend that Pastors believe they must be either for social involvement OR they are for the gospel. It's a line that I don't see it in scripture. It appears that this is reactionary behavior to a straw-man argument.

The present-day premise appears to be that churches are "too involved" in politics and they need to get back to their first love in Jesus. While I concede that SOME churches have a history of being more of a campaign headquarters than an avenue for people to meet Jesus I believe the reaction is way overboard. The reality is that our hope and salvation is noticed when we actually do something with it. When people are transformed by the power of Jesus Christ it is the churches responsibility to teach what Jesus commanded. We are supposed to make disciples by teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. Salvation is assured once and for all at the moment that person believes but the trend is to stop with that. As a consequence many churches sit in communities where the people of God are only noticed as being slow drivers on Sundays and tax burdens on communities.

It is my contention that our churches and the church leaders should do something to help the conditions of the least of these via every method available. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. In fact a better illustration is that we have two legs to walk... instead we seem to be hopping.

The answer to community involvement which most of us have been trained to point towards is to do a hit-and-run event put on by the church leadership. The church organizes a big day, does something cool and then fades to black and we return to our normally scheduled Sunday morning.

On the other hand we have churches that have 1,000 ministries run by the same 2 people. The churches are small because the church preaches a social gospel. To these folks Jesus isn't the risen savior so much as an example of a meek UN worker. Neither approach is working.

I guess when I read my bible I see that the church mattered in its community. Paul gave out instructions for the church to care for the widows, Paul taught the family to meet needs in their own family first, etc. The church actually benefited the communities in which they lived because the star of the show was the disciple.

Bob Roberts pointed this out last week at the conference I attended. He said that in the East the church is secondary to the disciple. People are told about Jesus and to give their WHOLE LIVES to Him so the church is formed from people who have been transformed. As a result entire communities are being changed because the gospel isn't dependant on a rock star Pastor or cool service. The gospel is born into all of the people and the idea of loving their neighbor and serving humanity come right along next to receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. It's such the norm that an argument about whether Christians should "be involved in society" is a foolish conversation. We really have screwed up the whole "in" but not "of" discussion.

I read a story today from a new friend in Baltimore. Here is an excerpt:

"It became a reality tonight that the gangs really are moving into our territory, the only thing we can do is educate ourselves, our kids and pray. Next week we are having a gang talk with our kids, not something we want to do, but something we MUST do. A few weeks ago one of our officers said to me, "Make sure that you are your staff are wearing the right colors, if you're not it could be bad." The sad part, it's true.

I ask for you to join me in prayer for my kids, that they'd stand apart, that they'd be called out to share Jesus with the people around them, for protection from the world and the horrible ways of it, from Satan’s attacks, from drugs, gangs, poverty etc. I love each and everyone of them and as I begin to think about the summer and how violence becomes more of an issue as the weather gets warmer, my heart breaks for them, I pray that they'll be hedges of angels around each and everyone of them."

Also yesterday I read several articles about education among our nation's cities. To say that the findings are troubling would be a pathetic understatement.

"Slightly more than a third of students in Baltimore schools graduate from high school, compared with 82 percent of students in the surrounding counties, according to the report.

That difference is the greatest for any city in the nation, the report says. Baltimore's suburban counties have graduation rates well above the national average, and the city has the fourth-lowest rate, the group found."

So with these things in mind... do elections mater?

Part 2 coming in a future post.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Thursday, April 03, 2008


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