Last week, I had the great privilege of traveling- along with Pastors Kirk, Brian, and Griff- to Atlanta, Georgia for three days of refreshing, energizing, and challenging training for pastors and leaders. The theme of the conference we attended was For Our Neighbors, which- if I keeping it completely real with you here- didn’t do much for me initially. After all, I figured, I’m already a pretty neighbor-ly guy. Tell me something I don’t already know!
Well, as is often the case in life and faith, often what we need isn’t the revelation of something new, but rather the repetition of something old. And as we traveled back home on Friday evening, I was pretty confident that God has said exactly what He intended to say to me in our three days away.
You don’t need me to tell you this, but it hasn’t been the easiest, most pleasant year in our community- or in our nation, for that matter. We’ve stared down- and continue to face today- a potent combination of challenges, from natural disasters to racial tensions to political drama to the everyday maladies that come our way in this broken world.
I have my stories.
You have your stories.
We have our stories.
And in the midst of that turmoil, we all have a choice to make- particularly so as the people of God, called by His name.
Can we tell a better story?
Ryan Leak, one of the presenters at last week’s event, said something striking about the current state of affairs in our world- “If things are as bad as we say they are (and they may well be!), then now is the best time we’ve had in a long time to make a difference for good.” Do you believe this? If so, does your life as a follower of Jesus reflect that?
Let’s face it- It would be very easy to wither under the onslaught of sin’s effects in our lives and in our world today. It would be easy to complain and condemn. It would be easy to hunker down and isolate ourselves. It would be easy to descend into the battle using the world’s weapons and ways. It would be easy to give up the fight altogether. Chances are, we’ve all tried on one or more of these strategies at some point.
But if we believe our own message as followers of Jesus, then we should be neither surprised by the state of the world we’re in, nor cynical about God’s ability to bring restoration into even the most broken of situations and circumstances. And as His representatives and ambassadors this side of heaven, it’s our responsibility and opportunity to speak that truth- and to live it too!
Can we tell a better story?
Here are a few ways I believe we can, starting right now…
- When literal storms rage (and they do!), we can be on the leading edge of caring with compassion for those afflicted and impacted, working to help them put the pieces of their homes and lives back together. By the way, this is one we’ve seen firsthand in a powerful way over the past nine months…but the need isn’t behind us yet. Consider coming out this Saturday, May 6 for our next Geaux Day to serve families still rebuilding!
- When storms of moral confusion rage (and they are!), we can point with conviction and compassion (both as essential) to the gracious design of a Creator who is working not for our harm, but rather for our joy. Even as we are often misunderstood and mischaracterized, we can stand ready to welcome the world-worn “refugees” of a sexual “revolution” that has left in its wake far more victims (especially women and children) than victors.
- When storms of racial tension rage (and they are!), we can work to build bridges of empathy and understanding among different groups, seeking healing and reconciliation in real relationships with others. As followers of Jesus, we have the unique opportunity to demonstrate to the watching world the power of a Christ-centered diversity that finds its power in a shared identity that doesn’t deny our differences, but does transcend them.
- When storms of political division rage (and they are!), we can steadfastly refuse to take up the world’s weapons of hatred and hostility, and instead contend for Christ-exalting convictions while at the same time demonstrating Christ-like character. We can hold up our ultimate allegiance to a King and a Kingdom that transcends the temporary, and hold to the confidence that He is indeed sovereign over all the affairs of humankind, even when that is tough to see. On this basis, we can trade in the “pocket change” of temporary political wins for the bottomless riches of His eternal victory- and then work in love to see light overcome darkness in the meantime.
- When storms of spiritual aimlessness rage (and they are!), we can bear witness to the wanderers that there is an Answer to all their longings- and His name is Jesus Christ. We can demonstrate that it is in Him alone that the peace, purpose, justice, joy, hope, and love for which we’re all searching can be fully and finally found.
Friends, as the people of God, called by His name, we have a better story. God has given that to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. He now calls us to raise our voices and proclaim it in word and deed to the watching, wondering, wandering, weary world- not simply as a religious story confined to our pews and pulpits on Sundays, but as a rescue story released in power through every corner of our lives every single day. That’s our opportunity. That’s our responsibility. That’s our privilege!
Will you tell a better story?