Andy Stoddard ~ How to Live Today in This World: A Letter
Dear Church Family,
It seems as though we are living days where each new day spins further out of control than the last. It is easy to feel like society is fraying at the seams. So many of us are afraid. Angry. Unsure of the future. Worried for our kids, our grandkids, our nation, everything.
It is so easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. I feel that way sometimes. When I think about the world that I will be handing to my children, I get worried. I am afraid of what they are going to have to deal with, the struggles they will face, all the uncertainty of it all.
It seems as though our nation is divided, people are divided; communities are divided. What are we to do? As Christians, as the church, what are we to do?
One of the things that I try to remember when we face huge trials is that we are not the first to deal with issues like this. We are not the first people to deal with divisions, with uncertainty, with all of these things. Many of us have lived through trying days before. And it isn’t just us. When we look at Scripture, we remember the trials that the people of God have always had to deal with. When we look at Paul’s world, we must remember that every word he wrote, he did under tremendous stress. He (and other believers) faced persecution from the world, from cultural and religious leaders, from so many places. Always remember what Paul went through when you read his words. Remember that, as you read this part of Romans 12:
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul and early Christians lived in a divided world. A world with much hatred. A world with much violence. A world that was big and mean and nasty, and didn’t much care for Christians.
And how did Paul tell believers to address that world? Love. Be patient. Show hospitality. Weep. Rejoice. Be humble. In as much as you can, live in peace. Vengeance is the Lords (NOT OURS). Feed, love, and care for your enemies. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul did not write this while life was easy. He did not write this without enemies, without those that wanted to cause him great harm. He wrote it while it was very, very hard.
He knew that Christians had to be different. In spite of persecution and fear and danger, we have to love. We have to make a difference. We have to be patient. We have to show grace. We have to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We have to be salt and light, we have to be life changers.
Hold on, Church. Believe. Hope. Pray. Show grace. Be Jesus to someone. Love everyone, even those with whom you disagree.
Don’t lose faith, don’t lose hope, don’t lose love. These three remain. God wins in the end. Someone in your path needs grace. You can’t control all the world, but you (and I) can control our living out grace today. And if we each live out grace, who knows what may happen and change.
Our community, our state, and our nation needs us now more than ever. Let’s live out our calling today.
Peace of Christ,