How Evangelicals Handle Wealth, Fame, and Mission

How Evangelicals Handle Wealth, Fame, and Mission

“Not by bread alone we live,
Thy good word our life shall be;
Not for all the earth can give
Shall we worship ought but thee;
Nor the word of promise bend
E’er to tempt our God in heaven;
Never for unholy end
Was the gracious promise given”
(Faint and Weary Jesus Stood by Walter C. Smith)

It’s in our human nature to assign blame. We want to know why something happened and who was responsible. This is true in our legal processes as much as within our own relationships and family life. If something has gone wrong someone is to blame.

These tendencies are amplified when your community is facing big challenges. Presently, evangelicals are facing big challenges. Very few evangelicals are looking at the future and seeing bright and vibrant possibilities for the evangelical faith.

People are giving a multitude of reasons for the declining influence of evangelicals. For those outside of the community the culprit is the right-wing politics. Evangelicals would be better off practicing their religion and leaving politics alone. In fact if evangelicals did this many outside of the community might change their judgments from negative to just quirky.

For those inside of the community the reasons tend to be legion, but there is a tendency to say that such things are happening to us rather than to say that we are causing such things. Without a significant unifying figure like Billy Graham many evangelicals are breaking into a kind of tribalism. With various people picking their favorite way of practicing faith or doing it the right way. This has spawned a whole social media industry of blame.

So, what has actually gone on?

Seek first the Kingdom and His Righteousness.” How are we doing with such a focus when it comes to wealth, fame, and mission.

There is a tendency for posts like this to descend into a sort of blame game as well. But I submit to you that God calls us to discernment not to sit in judgment of specific people. Ultimately judgment belongs to the Lord and such a thought should cause us each to tremble. I know it does for me.

As best as possible we want to keep our judgments sober, modest, and in line with helping to extend the mission of the church as it is united with Christ. With this kind of charitable spirit let us look at some hard issues.

Money

Perhaps there is no challenge greater in the present church than the role of money. Beyond the sermon to give generously we don’t talk a lot about money. Yet, our day to day is dominated by needing to navigate finances. Money can buy material goods and we’ve even developed a special term for when our relationship with money is going well: financial well being.

Pastors are not immune from how our society grapples with money. And you can see this play out in the life of the church. From lavish amounts being spent to make sure the church keeps pace with the business world or not enough being spent keeping pastors in unnecessary hardship. We run the gamut from pastors who charge exorbitant speakers fees and fly private jets to those who never save for retirement. In our community you would be hard pressed to say we handle money well. The words of Jesus come to mind if you can’t handle the riches of this world who will give you the riches of the kingdom.

Scriptures are clear you can’t serve God and money. Money is not morally neutral. It’s not what you do with it, it’s what hold it has on your life and ministry.

Without the proper spirit on money, money easily rules the life of many evangelical Christians.

Perhaps we have seen our witness squandered in part by the way we’ve handled ourselves with money. It’s one of the unspoken areas of church life. Money often determines our comfortability with risk in the kingdom, should it really be that way?

Fame

This is a harder one to talk about, but in some ways as pervasive as a dynamic as wealth.

We live in a celebrity culture and evangelicals are not immune from such tendencies. In fact many crave attention and recognition. The problem is that seeking fame is not the same as seeking the kingdom.

If one wants to seek fame they might actively brag about their access to the corridors of power and influence. Yet the kingdom is not impressed with such things. The riches of the kingdom surpass the riches of any temporary fame. The way of the cross and salvation is not the way of cultural glory.

We should hold those who embody a holy life in high esteem. If that leads to recognition so be it, but let us all be on guard for the temptation to seek recognition for its own sake.

Mission

Seeking first the kingdom means seeking those things of the Father in all places and at all times. It requires peace of mind, awareness, intense prayer, and a deep love for others. This should be what motivates our focus, when such things are lacking we are falling short on Christian mission and in some ways we should consider refraining calling things that don’t resemble Christianity, Christian.

Mission creep is certainly very present in the evangelical world. So let us return to a passion for the mission of the kingdom in all of its rich forms.

The point is not to just say see look at three areas that aren’t normally talked about it is to actually encourage a turn and repentance in order that we might more fully seek the kingdom.

Repent, turn, and actively turn from the old ways. This is true for me as for you. Don’t just say I repent demonstrate repentance with actions that match a truly turned heart. Ask what God would have you do even if it is sell half of your possessions to atone. Have sorrow for how things have happened and move towards the heart of the kingdom. Seek the true treasurers. Don’t wait the time is now. Amen.

Everyday Faithfulness

Everyday Faithfulness

So what does it look like to grow in faithfulness everyday of our lives? If you are like most Christians the thought seems daunting.

I was at a retreat several years ago where we were asked to share our faith journey on a graph from left to right. Most people had several flattish lines with moments of inspiration (mountain top experiences) mixed in. The charts ended up looking like small growth followed by great leaps followed by a return to a similar level. While there were periods of great Christian insight most felt like their faith journey was a bit of a muddle.

Here’s what tends to happen.

Christians might feel really good at a Sunday service or a small group but the rest of the time they tend to be surviving or just trying to make it by.

Christians generally, but evangelicals in particular are taught to pray, maintain good bible reading, and avoid moral sins.

But what about the everyday struggles and faithfulness during the work week?

This is where some new terminology might prove really helpful. Christians battle with what the church fathers would call the passions. For each person their particular passion or passions might be different. For one person it might be pride, for another anger, for another deep seated anxiety, for another lust, yet another a judgmental spirit, and so on.

If you are lucky you are aware of your main struggle, for some such awareness is lacking. If you aren’t sure ask someone you trust and who knows you well and they’ll likely be able to help you identify some.

The Christian life consists in putting to death these passions, especially the ones that rule our day to day. The way we do this though isn’t to simply try harder and stop doing the things we know we shouldn’t do.

Christian prayers for centuries have said something like this. Forgive me for the sins I have committed willfully or in my weakness. Willful sins are easy to imagine, sins of weakness tend to be related to the passion or passions that easily overwhelm our ability to refrain from acting on them.

These sins that are committed in weakness often have deep seated sources. If you are an anxious person simply trying to stop being anxious won’t work.

Instead you must pursue everyday faithfulness to build up the strength to truly put to death the passions.

What do such things look like?

When we think of doing Christian things in our day to day we start reverting to abstract thoughts. Be nice, be kind, be friendly.

Instead we must focus on specific actions. Remember faith that does not flow into our actions is of little value.

So instead if you want to put to death the passions start with small and concrete actions. If you walk to/from a metro stop you or in a downtown area you might consider bringing a dollars worth of quarters with you. Now every time someone asks for money, give one of those quarters away no matter who it is. This can be a concrete way to give to all who ask expecting nothing in return.

Maybe you struggle with a particular colleague at work. Perhaps you might discipline yourself to say thank you each time you interact with them. This small change in attitude can pay major dividends as you seek to grow in your faith.

Maybe you are prone to deep anxiety. Practice a simple prayer every time you are anxious like “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.” Your anxiety won’t immediately go away but with time you are helping to build the spiritual health that will give you strength and inner peace to face your anxieties.

The idea is to take on small and new steps as often as possible in order that the Holy Spirit might transform you more and more into the likeness of Christ.

The way to big change often comes
with everyday faithfulness. Taking daily steps without growing weary will produce a mature harvest.
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Hobby Lobby- A Deeper Look

Hobby Lobby- A Deeper Look

This week the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Calistoga Wood. The ruling has set off a wave of social media confusion. So here’s a more comprehensive look.

First the basics. Hobby Lobby and Calistoga Wood objected to four contraceptives: two emergency contraceptives Plan B and Ella and two kinds of IUDs. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Calistoga Wood find these methods to be abortifacients, in their faith based view they do not want to financially enable these methods which they view as virtually equal to abortion. To put it more clearly, to the owners of Hobby Lobby and Calistoga Wood paying for these items would be the equivalent of enabling the death of babies.

At issue is the interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 and a subsequent law. The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act expanded the definition of religious freedom:

Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

In other words the government cannot burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the law was not specifically targeted at a particular faith or religious belief.

Until this week, the Supreme Court had never definitively ruled on how RFRA applied to religious freedom. The court had also never ruled about the religious freedoms of corporations. So the case was groundbreaking on many levels.

This is not an exhaustive post, but I want to look at three dimensions of the case: what constitutes a Christian business, whether or not corporations are people, and how to view this case within a historical context.

A Christian Business

Is Hobby Lobby a Christian business? Here’s an interesting interview with Mart Green which I think will help you get a sense of how they view their life and work. David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, is the son of an Assemblies of God preacher. David was the only child not to go into full time ministry. Listen to the full interview to get a better sense of the family and how they view themselves. They are very much Assemblies of God Christians in their beliefs and practice.

Jonathan Merrit has a post that articulated what many probably feel at some gut level. How can a craft and hobbies store claim a Christian mandate or identity? It’s an interesting question and an important one to consider.

Certainly the Green family believes that they are running a Christian business in that they promote evangelism, are closed on the Sabbath, are pro-life in their beliefs, and are generous with their financial contributions. They also promote the values of integrity and empowerment within their business context.

CyberXRef/Wikimedia Commons

CyberXRef/Wikimedia Commons

I think it’s worth stating that God will hold us to high standards if we choose to call our business Christian. Some evangelicals will call a business they own a full time Christian ministry. What they typically mean is that there is a specific focus on evangelism and reaching others with the good news of Jesus Christ or that they are generous in their contributions, what is often missing is any mention or serious reflection on Christian practice in the entire life cycle of the business.

What’s important to remember is that in God’s eyes these aren’t either/or propositions. The Lord will ask us if our work contributed to the suffering of the vulnerable overseas, he will ask how we handled engaging with the unborn, he may ask if we thought about how our products were sourced in terms of their impact on God’s creation, he will ask how we tried to love our neighbors who weren’t Christian but were employed in our business. Certainly our personal generosity and Sabbath practices will also come into play, but as important will be questions on whether we earned wrongful gain or defrauded our neighbor in the life cycle of our business. God’s standards will be much higher than our legal or cultural norms. Not to mention the Lord will ask about all those hidden ways and questions that he has for each of us. In short, working in God’s name is not something to be taken lightly.

I think the question on money making and how Christians have handled money and fame in their ministries and lives has done a lot to cloud the role of money as a motivating factor in calling something Christian. Money is not morally neutral when it comes to whom you ultimately serve. So I think this sentiment and experience does a lot to lessen the enthusiasm for businesses claiming a Christian identity.

As far as the Green family, I cannot be a final arbitrator of what they claim to be. I can only point people to all the ways God may hold us to account for what we say, and ask that each of us be sober minded in our judgments and practices. After all God is other and He is holy and has called us to seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness. This is true for the Greens as any other Christian family.

Corporations and People

Are corporations people? It seems laughable, but under U.S. law increasingly the answer is yes. To some extent businesses in the U.S. have always been treated in some way like people for the purposes of entering into contracts and engaging with other businesses. You might ask why? The simple answer is that there was not the need to create another type of category or rights for businesses. The questions asked in the 19th century were not the same ones being asked today. The initial thinking around being held accountable like any person seems good and fair. Like people corporations can be held liable for illegal actions and even dumping.

The pro-life movement has often taken issue with the idea that corporations are people while the unborn are not. So it’s a bit of a surprise to see a reversal that doesn’t articulate that we view the unborn as people too.

Under current interpretations of the law, U.S. corporations are people in some instances but not in others. The most notable case in the last few years was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) which ruled that corporations are people when it comes to their ability to make their views known in the political process. The case built on Buckley v. Valeo (1976) which ruled that free speech includes money.

So association of peoples operating as corporations are being recognized more and more as people under U.S. law. This is morally problematic because it consolidates the identity of a business into the hands of a few decision makers. Isn’t there a way to balance ownership rights without resorting to equivalence?

The United States has a tradition of being skeptical of consolidated power whether in the hands of government or unaccountable groups of people. If corporations are people they are unlike any people you and I will ever meet with more influence than any single individual can typically wield.

Having said this it does not mean that all people or all government actions are wrong intrinsically. I simply mean that any accumulation of power without accountability is worth curtailing.

A bit of History

What constitutes religious freedom has always been subject to the laws and norms of the present time. Religious freedom has and will continue to change. Cases having to do with religious freedom and rights have constantly been adjudicated in U.S. law. For instance, as an employee you do not have a right to claim religious freedom exemptions for not working during certain days or times of the year if your exercise of that right puts an undue burden on your fellow employees. (I.E. an employee of a small business is not entitled to excessive time off even to practice faith.)

In 1878 in a case Reynolds v. United States a prominent Mormon leader challenged polygamy laws on the basis of religious freedom. The court ruled unanimously that Reynolds had a right to his personal views but that his liberty did not extend to his actions. He could claim no right to be a polygamist because marriage was to be entered into one person at a time.

In 1925 the Society of Sisters’ sued the State of Oregon for banning private schools. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Sisters religious freedom entitled them to run a faith-based school.

In 1990 two Native Americans sued the state of Oregon for denying them unemployment benefits on being dismissed for using cannabis in a religious ceremony. Back then, Justice Scalia ruled that both employees had no claim against the State of Oregon because the law did not specifically target their religious beliefs, but was generally applied to all citizens.

That court case sparked then Cong. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to introduce the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill passed unanimously in the U.S. House and with all but three votes in the U.S. Senate.

Historically the laws of the U.S. have been very generous in allowing for religious exemptions and the free exercise of religion, but when there are major social changes, what constitutes freedom of religion also changes. We have moved in times past from a nation with slavery to a nation without, from a nation with little rights for women to a nation with substantial rights, from a nation of discrimination on the basis of color to a nation where our laws no longer support such things.

On the issue of abortion there is still a great deal left unsettled. For the time being the court is allowing an accommodation for religious owners.

Will this mean a parade of terrible actions done by the hands of Christians and other religious people? I think the answer is mostly no. The court is unlikely to allow religious businesses to have different standards for same-sex couples.

I also don’t think this case is a real clear win for religious freedom. It’s unclear what lower courts will now rule on in terms of similar claims. I think we will see more cases on religious freedom, but those cases will not be as clear cut if they do not have to do with matters of life and death (i.e. how one views abortion).

The main lesson: Christians should be very careful on what they bring before the courts. Our culture and even popular Christian thinking uses one standard, but God judges the heart and the substance of what we do. This should all give us great pause.

 

Elusive Peace

Elusive Peace

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 172:2)

Anxiety deadens the soul. Anxiety can be all consuming and debilitating. It even gets harder to breathe when we are severely anxious. Anxiety robs us of sleep and perspective.

We live in an age where anxiety is the norm. Many people turn to faith to deal with their anxieties, but few take the time to truly explore the source of their deeply rooted anxieties. If we took the time we would find that our disproportionate passions are running the show. In other words we lack contentment and we lack peace. So in response we have sought our own ways of obtaining peace and contentment.

Angelico, Fra. The Conversion of St. Augustine (painting).

Angelico, Fra. The Conversion of St. Augustine (painting).

This is one
of the great truths of life. What if we have everything we could ever want or imagine; and yet we are still without elusive peace. This is the great tragedy, in our striving we obtain everything but  wellness of life.

This is the mystery of our age. We live in a nation of great wealth yet contentment is not universal or deep. Divorce is significant, family ties are weak, true friendship is rare, depression is ever increasing, and yet we continue to fill our deep needs with our latest attempt at a solution.

Jesus says, “Peace be with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives.” The Psalmist says “I have more peace than when their grain and wine abound.”

Surely these are not euphemisms but spiritual and material realities for the Christian. As Christians we must take up our cross daily against anxious toil. We must not let the standards of the age determine our vision for well being in life. Christians must pursue the hard path of daily reliance on the Lord. We must be disciplined in our affections, so that with time we can abandon our own ways at finding solutions to our deep anxieties and fears and instead turn to the Lord for our daily manna. If we seek the Lord and let the goodness of the Trinity shape our desires, in time peace will be given. Amen.

When We Sit in Judgment

When the children of Israel were entering the promised land they were extremely confident that this was God’s will for them. God had delivered them from Egypt, spent 40 years with them in the wilderness, and had now brought them to the promised land. All of their previous experiences and ideas about God told them that this was about to happen and they were certain.  Yet scripture contains a very unusual encounter.

13 Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  (Joshua 5:13-14) 

When Joshua asks whether this angelic man was for Israel or against, the answer comes. We would expect the angelic man to say, yes I am for you, because God is for you. Yet the answer is neither. It reminds me of the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address:

 Yet, if God wills that it [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Photo by Wally Gobetz used through flickr creative commons

Photo by Wally Gobetz used through flickr creative commons


God’s purposes remain God’s. Even when it seems absolutely certain that God will act in his purposes for his people, the answer is still that God’s purposes are his and his alone. 

This is an important lesson for us who think we understand everything about God.  However clear our understandings without love and a sense of awe at the otherness and justice of God they mean nothing.

In contemporary evangelicalism we have largely lost the notion of God as mystery.  Yet the Trinity is other, the Trinity retains a sense of mystery.  That’s what causes us to stand in awe of our Lord Jesus, who is made fully God and fully man. He is fully man and so we recognize his humanity and yet he is fully God, fully other as well.

This basic truth should create a proportionate sense of humility in our judgments. We should not forget the Savior’s words that with the measure we use to judge that it will be measured back to us. Our judgments need to be disciplined and as such tempered with the understanding that God is holy, good, and just.

Yes we ought to grow in our understandings of theology and the ways of the Lord, but may that not lead us into an overconfident pride, and may such understandings not come at the expense of work that needs to happen within our own warring passions. Passions that when left unchecked lead us into bitterness and godless disunity.  The deepest truth is still “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner, amen.”

 

Lord of Heaven and Earth

Lord of Heaven and Earth

Christianity is a life giving faith. The Christian life is not always a happy one, but it is a vibrant one in so far as it does not isolate the spiritual from the physical realm, but unites them. Thus we acknowledge that the life of the Spirit and physical life are not separate but united. This unity helps us understand the true nature of things, exactly because it does not isolate the spiritual or physical nature of man. Instead the physical and spiritual dimensions of the Christian life are what make it vibrant. It’s spiritual focus helps to illuminate the nature of the physical world, while its physical focus gives shape to the spiritual realm. As N.T. Wright puts it the physical world overlaps with the spiritual one. The spiritual realm is not somewhere in the clouds, it is another physical dimension which overlaps with the physical world on earth.

10153299_10152366316599106_6333829704455706035_nGiven the combined spiritual and physical nature of faith, Christianity is not just concerned with inner thoughts and inner attitudes, it is concerned with outward actions and relationships. The internal and external go hand in hand.

Take the command to Love God and to Love Neighbor. Because Christians believe that the physical and spiritual are united, these two great commandments can not be separated from each other. We can not love God and despise our neighbor no more than we could love our neighbor while neglecting God. The two are inseparable. Our Love for God is expressed in our right attitude and love for our neighbor, and our love for neighbor ought to reflect the purity and holiness of our affections for God. When either end of these two great commandments are neglected Christianity loses its vibrancy.

That means that our love for neighbor in and through Christ is an essential guide for our earthly actions and attitudes. Christianity disposes us toward our neighbor in order that it might also dispose us rightly toward God. This has some significant implications for our devotional life, evangelism, vocations, and the mission of the church.

Devotional Life

As much as our devotional life ought to strengthen our love for God it also ought to manifest itself in our day to day interactions and work. The discipline of prayer and reading of scripture should become habitual with time and attention. It will not always be a natural or easy exercise but if we give reading and prayer space to grow than we will see a real growth in our devotional life.

Our devotional life ought to act as a bookend to our days and give us ever increasing tools to bare the labors of the day. Whether it’s a simple reputation of the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner” or the book of common prayer, developing a regular habitat of prayer, disciplines our reliance on the spiritual realm as we are deeply engaged in the physical one.

Our devotional life is not designed to simply make us feel good about our relationship to God, instead it is suppose to remind us of our sinfulness and constant need for the Lord. This reminder should than flow into a real love and care for our neighbor without distinction for who they are or what they have done for us.

Evangelism 

Understanding the overlap between the spiritual and physical realm ought to transform our evangelism. Instead of being solely focused on one time conversion we should focus on sowing the seeds of the gospel in word and deed.

Faith without works is dead as is works without faith. Instead the two my go hand in hand if we intercede and engage the well being of our neighbor for the long term.

In this light we do not need to separate our love for justice or compassion with our love for Evangelism. Instead a pursuit of humble justice, mercy, and compassion and love for our neighbor can result in a long term and consistent witness in the life of our neighbor.

Vocations

Because the spiritual realm and physical realm aren’t separate this transforms our attitudes on vocation. No longer can we say that a job is just a job. Instead a job has meaning in so far as it either engages our God given talents or teaches us profound truths about the spiritual and physical realm.

So if we find ourselves doing work that we neither desire nor enjoy, this itself becomes a teacher for our good. Such work challenges us toward humility and humble obedience. We are taught under the discipline of our embarrassment to more fully trust the Lord.

If our work matches our skill set or is beyond our skill set we have the challenge of discovering the particular Christian nature of our vocations or again to trust that the Lord can work in circumstances beyond what we are able to handle.

In a wide range of cases the stitching together of the physical and spiritual realms make our vocations a significant part of our Christian life.

The Mission of the Church

With the combination of the spiritual and physical realms comes a wide range of possibilities for the life and mission of the church. Because we are to point the way to Christ in all the facets of life, many kinds of missions and focus become essential for the witness of the local body.

The local body can take on evangelism, justice, compassion, prayer, discipleship and more because the realms of church service are not limited to one type or flavor. Instead the talents of the local body can be used to bring witness and praise to the Father.

The good news that Jesus is truly Lord of the spiritual and physical nature of life is really good news. Our faith does not need to be limited to Sundays, instead life giving faith can inhabit our day to day. Thanks be to God!

Vocations, St. George, Suffering, Hope, and Endurance

Vocations, St. George, Suffering, Hope, and Endurance

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (1 Peter 2:19-20)

In 1 Peter we find an echo of the teachings of Jesus. If you do what other people expect of you when it comes to loving your neighbor, repaying what is owed, responding to opposition, handling violent circumstances, doing good to others when good is done to you, what benefit is that to you?

These are really interesting themes to consider in light of creation-care. If Christians do what people expect of them when it comes to stewarding God’s creation, what credit is that to us? If we don’t offer additional depth, if we don’t model a different way to be an environmentalist, if we don’t model faithfulness to Jesus first, what good is all our striving?

Now I write this realizing not all are called to the field of creation-care, I write this knowing that within the body of Christ exists many calls and many talents, and many gifts, but I also write this with the full understanding that we have underestimated the challenge of climate change and living within our environmental means. Resources like clean air, clean water, and vibrant soils are not endless and can be managed very poorly to the determinant of those who depend on them for life.

So what does faithfulness look like? 

The passage above takes us to some uncomfortable places. In an era of modern church life where there is still such a separation between how we act on Sundays and how we act during the rest of the week, especially in the context of our daily jobs, it is a hard saying to think that Christian beliefs might actually govern and intrude in my daily work, let alone saying that I might have to lose my livelihood or my reputation because of my faith. The idea that my Christianity might extend beyond working hard and doing the best I can to actually putting a career or a livelihood on the line is just too outlandish for too many to consider. Yet we can’t escape the essential meaning of the passage, especially in light of its actual focus on work and livelihood.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly

Suffering for righteousness sake should not be a foreign concept within the life and realm of the Christian. While this post has a bent towards vocations, this suffering can just as easily be relational.

When for the sake of faith you stand up to corruption, you stand up to wrong doing, you stand up for the sake of others and you suffer because of it, this is a commendable thing. Now one needs to endure this suffering with endurance, with the attitude of a Christian, with the maturity of a believer, but this too is an ancient Christian concept.

St. George 

Anglicans recently celebrated St. George’s Day. St. George is the patron saint of England and is revered as the saint of soldiers. St. George was a skilled and gifted soldier from a noble family known for their service to the Roman Empire. By the time he had reached his late 20s he had risen in the ranks and was known as a very skillful and competent commander. As the story goes, in the year 302 AD the Emperor Diocletian issued an edict requiring Christians to be arrested and every other soldier to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.

St. George refused to sacrifice to idols. We are told that Diocletian was saddened by this because St. George had great favor with the Emperor and the Emperor did not want to make an example of a loyal and skilled soldier. So Diocletian attempted to bribe St. George, along came property, money, titles, and slaves, if he would just sacrifice to the gods and yet St. George refused. For these refusals St. George was executed.

While many of us present day saints will seldom be asked to sacrifice our lives in the modern west (a luxury not afforded to many Christians around the world), we can learn something from the example of St. George. We may be called to do some things for the sake of the faith which will put our livelihoods and at the very least our comfort zones or reputations at risk. Yet this is a significant part of the church’s tradition. Suffering graciously and enduring hardship for the sake of Jesus is a good, gracious, and commendable way of life.

Having said this it must be said that we must not create our own self-righteous view of what true faith looks like in this regard. The way of the cross is humility. Every Christian is called to love the Lord fully and completely and this ought to extend to all the realms of life. Our desire to be faithful should not become an overly individualistic crusade without the counsel and wisdom of loving friends and the guidance of the church itself. Still it must be said that some may be called to do more than might seem safe in the world today for the sake of the gospel.

What this Might Mean for Creation-Care

When it comes to environmental challenges we live in unprecedented times. In addition to public policy we need Christians being salt and light within every meaningful and related vocation. With the stakes so high for human life and well being, and the corresponding interests from all sectors competing for dominance, we need Christians who are willing to call out corruption and negligence in the private and public realm. So whether in business or in the government, Christians are called to vocational integrity and in light of creation-care have an obligation to call out those issues that might easily lead to the next spill, next accident, next short cut.

We also need Christians who have a faithful and hopeful vision of the future and are willing to do the long hard work to address some of our most lasting environmental challenges. This is especially true when it comes to climate change. We need entrepreneurs and vocationally minded scientists who are willing to be explicit about how their Christian faith is motivating and inspiring them to come up with climate solutions. People like Katharine Hayhoe who are doing the hard science and cultural work to not only give us the best information on climate change but to take that information and bridge the cultural gap on climate. She is creating an important space where conservative can come to the table to offer solutions to address climate change. In this way she is going beyond what might be expected of her in terms of creation-care and instead is pioneering new ways of doing her work faithfully.

I pray that we might all have the integrity and depth of character to act as people of conviction in all the varied realms of life.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. You can view the original post here