Who Do You Hate or Fear?
In Nashville last weekend to speak at the national Christian Educator’s Fellowship conference, I worshipped at West End United Methodist Church. It’s a hulk of an English Gothic cathedral across the street from Vanderbilt University where traditional worship is as good as gets. When the organist pulls out the stops (literally), the organ can shake your bones and the choir can make your spirit soar. There’s a good reason that great “traditional” worship is still around.
In his sermon, Michael Williams told the story of a pastoral colleague who, in preparing for the annual stewardship emphasis, asked a friend who was a political fund-raiser for some advice. The fund-raiser said, “Tell me who you hate.” The shocked preacher replied, “We don’t hate anyone…we’re the church.” The fund-raiser went on, “Then, tell me who you fear.” The preacher said that he didn’t really fear anyone. The fund-raiser said, “Well, if you don’t have someone to hate or fear, then I really can’t help you.”
The comment is as accurate as it is disappointing. It confirms the way our current political climate is driven by hate or fear. If you watch the ads in Florida these days, the next governor will be chosen on the basis of who we hate the least. Our panic-stricken reaction to Ebola is more an evidence of media-driven fear than medical knowledge. Unfortunately, it can even happen in the church when we discover that other equally-faithful disciples may see things differently than we do.
Who Do We Love? Who Loves Us?
As I continued in worship, I realized that the great word of the gospel is not who we hate or fear, but who we love and the One who loves us. Whenever hate or fear slither into the life of the church, they are a Satanic corruption of the gospel and a betrayal of the faith. It’s what Paul was talking about when he said, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1:7)
My friend and colleague, Steve Harper, has modeled the way of love for the church’s conversations about homosexuality and same-sex marriage in his recent book, “For the Sake of the Bride”. It’s a powerful personal witness of what it can mean for followers of Christ to live together in a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
Loving others and knowing that we are loved by God may not be the most effective way to raise money for political campaigns, but it’s the only way to follow Jesus.
Celebrating “Disciple’s Path”
Also in Nashville I spent a day in meetings at the United Methodist Publishing House. The good news is that nearly 55,000 people have used “A Disciple’s Path”. The reports from different kinds of churches across the nation confirm that the Spirit is using it in ways that goes beyond all of our expectations. Praise God! The follow-up resource,“A Disciple’s Heart”, will be released in February. Join me in praying that these resources will be a part of the renewal of our denomination.
Grace and peace,
4 thoughts on “Who Do You Hate? Who Do You Fear?”
It’s always a pleasure and a refreshing reading your posts and listening to your sermons.I really miss you at Hyde Park. I save as a podcast a lot of your sermons that were post on itunes. Unfortunately one of my favorites from February 5, 2012 : “God’s favorite” is no longer available. Is there any way that I can get it or your written version. I will appreciate it immensely. I know it will help me to deal with a very dear person in my life.
Thank you Jim…your words indeed apply to the NC political race going on now!! A disgrace plus the millions $$ being wasted with no other thought except their gain and continued hate- monger ing. What is our responsibility as Christians…everyone I know dislike the repetitive media to which we are exposed. Of course the Off button works and canceling the daily.paper and don’t answer the telephone ads but…..???
Your messages are always so special to receive….LIBBY
We continue to use A Disciple’s Path and its companion reader you authored in the (Prospective)
New Member Classes at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. They are very well received and have most significant and meaningful content. I look forward to the new book you and Justin LaRosa
have worked on as well.
I lost your “curmudgeon ” Halloween post (we agree here – not always politically, although I think our priorities are similar, just different takes of what is what) – could you please send it again. As we travel, and visit Methodist churches around the country, we mention you. You are always known and respected. Miss you and blessings to you & your family, Dimity
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