We live in interesting times. No one could have guessed that the summer of 2015 would bring a different kind of heat to so much of our common life and discourse in our local communities and nation. I have an AP app (Associated Press) on my smart phone that sends me a short blurb with every event deemed newsworthy. Part of me has wanted to turn that app notification off this summer just because of the content that has been bleeping onto my screen over the past few months: the Charleston Church Shooting on June 17th, the death of Sandra Bland in police custody in Texas on July 13th, the Chattanooga shooting on July 16th, the Louisiana shooting on July 23rd, just to name a few. The presence of such repeated, senseless violence and trauma is unnerving and disconcerting. It can bring out the best in us as human beings; it also often brings out the worst.
In the midst of a public square that is already electric with communal fear and suspicion, we have also experienced controversial and historic events that have been received with very mixed and divided opinions: Supreme Court Decisions on same-sex marriage on June 26th, lethal injection on June 29th, and Health Care Subsidies June 25th; a South Carolina House vote to remove the Confederate flag from the State House; and a local debate around Graham’s confederate soldier statue in front of the downtown Courthouse. Just a few weeks ago, I heard of a church that had responded to this recent climate by turning one of their Sunday School rooms into a storeroom for packaged meals for their membership. The majority of the church is convinced that a great tribulation is around the corner and they don’t want to be caught unawares. Though such a reaction is likely to prompt dismissive laughter from most, it did cause me to ask a more important question about the church: What should be our response to all that is happening in our world, our nation, and our local communities?
I am not sure I have the answer to that question, but I think it is a question worth asking and reflecting on together as the Body of Christ. I do know that there are a few things that I would like to see more of in our common life and witness: 1) Prayer for all people, and especially those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2); 2) Patience, with one another, and especially with those with whom we disagree (Proverbs 14:29); 3) Forgiveness – (Matthew 6:15; 18:21); 4) Honorable and Edifying Speech (James 1:19), and 5) Proactive Action (Micah 6:8).
In recent days I have been in conversation with area pastors and churches (across lines of race, ethnicity, and denomination) around some of these shared concerns. I am not sure where such conversations may lead us in terms of proactive action, but I am certain that Christians of good faith can and should come together to witness to a better way, a higher good, and a deeper compassion and love. After all, we are followers of Jesus.