by Abp Robert Gosselin, General Secretary
For weeks now I have sat silently and watched as one situation after another has torn at the very fabric of our society. The time for silence has passed.
When he raised his voice to speak his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents some 200 years ago, Edmund Burke observed
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing
While I read and hear many who speak out of injustices real and imagined, I fear we have allowed both the crisis of the moment and the push for political propriety to silence the very voices that must be heard. The only voices that can actually bring true healing and authentic reconciliation. These would be the voices of Christian leaders proclaiming that the issues are not those of violence alone, but VILENESS. Not skin, but SIN.
In today’s politically regulated world it is not acceptable to talk about “sin” any longer. We are faced with rampant crime, unspeakable violence, dissolving family structures, the abandonment of the values that laid the foundation of this nation and a wholesale assault on the Judeo-Christian ethic that so aptly guided our people and our nation for over 200 years. We are told that one may not call things “sin” that were clearly identified as such – and therefore disdained – by generations of our forefathers. It’s not a baby – it’s a “choice.” He’s not a drunk, she’s not an addict – they have ‘life controlling issues.” Destroying the property others have worked a lifetime to build isn’t rioting and looting – it’s “protesting.” This is lunacy!
Let those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ – and especially those who claim to speak for Him as his pastors, priests, bishops, and other ministers – RAISE OUR VOICES and speak light into the darkness and life into these situations of death. We will never overcome sin by hiding it. We will never overcome sin by ignoring it. We will never overcome sin by accepting it. For certain we will never overcome sin by changing the definition God gave it in His word. An oncologist cannot serve his patient by withholding valid test results and a solid diagnosis. Neither can we, the Body of Christ in this world, serve anyone by hiding the truth. Both approaches lead to certain death.
Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Let us address the issue of character. Let us address the issue of sin. We must RAISE OUR VOICES and speak the words that have the power to change hearts. In my experience, nothing but receiving and accepting the Word of God has the capacity to reliably, predictably and certainly change hatred into love, anger into peace, umbrage into forgiveness. Only yielding to Jesus Christ as the absolute Lord of one’s life and inviting the Holy Spirit to enter and change one from within is the absolute answer. While other approaches and ideas may have some level of effectiveness, only Jesus always brings the peace He promises.
As we choose to judge men by their character, we do well to recall the question Demosthenes raised 2300 years ago in the Athenian marketplace. He asked, “What sane man would let another man’s words rather than his deeds tell him who is at war and who is at peace with him?” We must recognize those who are at war with our nation, and we must fight that war well. In doing so we must remember that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the very spirits of hatred and insurrection. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual; and infinitely more powerful.
I have sat on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem with the man who used to be one of Yasser Arafat’s chief “enforcers.” He had been a violent, angry and hate-filled man. His position allowed him to express those feelings in limitless violent actions; he was a man known for his cruelty. His personal hatred for Israel and Jews knew no bounds. But every part of that changed when this man met Jesus and invited Him to enter his soul and be the Lord of his life. Jesus Christ dealt with the SIN in this man’s life by applying His shed blood. That was all he needed. (In point of fact, it is the only thing that could possibly change him.) His angry and violent heart immediately changed to one of forgiveness. His hatred of the Jews was turned into love.
His approach to rectifying the admittedly horrible situation between these two disparate people changed entirely, and he dedicated himself to building the dialog and relationships that would bring about true reconciliation and peace. Non-violently. By identifying the lies being propagated by both sides of the conflict and speaking truth. By eliminating the baseless accusations and addressing the actual issues and injustices. By introducing Jesus into the discussion – deliberately, repeatedly and with determination. When one can offer the solution, we bear an absolute responsibility to RAISE OUR VOICES.
As good men and women of God we cannot stand by and do nothing, for to do so is to allow evil to triumph. We must decide that we will speak the truth in love, for only then can we “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) The world needs to see “the mature body” living in maturity. Here then are some truths I believe we – the “capital-C” Church – must speak loud and clear:
THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH LOVE
We who are in Christ must choose to live out and express the unity our Lord prayed for in John 17. We must agree upon the lordship of Jesus Christ and the need for the salvation He offers by grace through faith. Let us insist ONLY on Christ, and let the questions of other doctrines and dogmas wait for a later time. Let our diversity be our strength as we demonstrate that we can have UNITY even when we do not fully agree on some minor things. When our nation is falling apart at the seams it must be the Church who shows what forgiveness, love and unity look like. Unity is not uniformity. Unity is the truest expression of community. If we who are in Christ cannot love, forgive and embrace then what hope have we to offer the world.
Our faith must be expressed and not repressed. Live the example of forgiveness, then share the impact of Christ in you and your life. The world is desperate for answers, and we must give them His answer.
Even now there is a massive move of God taking place in the very spot where George Floyd died. A group of Christ followers were determined to go there, to speak about hope, love, forgiveness and grace. As they RAISED THEIR VOICES those who heard responded. Gang members are turning to Christ. Miraculous healings are being seen. Hundreds are being baptized. Revival has become the new form of “protest” and lives are being changed. One of those leading this outreach said, “when injustice happens and the pain is there, the best way to heal hearts and to bring what’s right and to bring what’s truly real, is to petition Heaven. When revival breaks out it’s the kingdom of Heaven breaking in.”
ONLY JESUS changes lives. ONLY JESUS changes hearts. ONLY JESUS changes the world with His grace.
LET US PUT ASIDE THE DEEDS OF DARKNESS, AND HELP OTHER TO DO SO
There must be no place where we allow darkness to hide. We must allow God to define goodness and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies. It is HE who will be the final judge, and therefore His interpretation of His law that applies. In this we must speak the truth in love; but we must speak the truth. To continue with my previous example, the oncologist cannot remove only part of the cancer and expect the patient to recover. He must address the entire issue. Sin is a robber, a corrupter and a killer. A life freed from sin is infinitely better than a life controlled by it. We who are in Christ have the key – if only we are courageous enough to share Him and the freedom and forgiveness He gives.
Nor can we allow sin to find a soft spot in our heart. I am the best one to judge the secrets I hide within. I must be willing to bring them to the cross of Christ. Holding onto offenses from the past is sin. Refusing to forgive one who has offended me is sin. Judging another by anything but God’s word is sin. Racism is sin. Stealing, looting, robbing are sin. Hatred and murder are sin. I could go on, but the point is made. It is harsh to call something SIN. But harsh words are better than death. Sin, when it has reached its fullness, brings death. We must first deal with our sin so that we may be used to help others deal with theirs.
In this matter of helping others I must recognize that those around me, those who know me best and love me most, are in the best position to guide me into seeing things to which I am otherwise blind. Proverbs 11:14 teaches us there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. If those who know me best and love me most are pointing out an issue in my life – though I do not see it – I am wise to hear their voices over the internal protestations of my will. By definition, I will require the help of others to see the blind spots in my own life. I am blind to them! Dealing with these blind spots is an essential element of rooting out darkness.
SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE – BUT SPEAK IT
In an Orwellian twist, the very services that were ostensibly created to promote and enhance free speech and more open dialog in our present society have become the most determined tools restricting it. If I dare lift my voice against “progressive” thinking often enough I will find my Facebook account is censored, my Twitter feed is shadow banned, my name mysteriously ends up on page 72 of Google searches and my YouTube channel is demonetized.
Regardless of the oppression that may follow, we cannot allow our message of hope and healing to be dominated and controlled by those who benefit from stopping the dialog. Free, open loving, non-accusatory discussions must be had; and they must be had with those whose opinions differ from ours. For that to occur we must engage. We must RAISE OUR VOICES.
We must take the risk to discuss the “hard questions” of our day. They will not solve themselves. We in the Church are the solution waiting to happen. God’s word touches and changes hearts – and we ALL need our hearts touched and changed in some way. No one is exempt. Nor can any topic be exempt. If we are determined to speak in love we ought to be determined to address every issue in love until it is resolved and healed. Christ didn’t come, live and die to touch some lives and some issues – but He loved us enough that to ALL WHO RECEIVED HIM He gave the right to become children of God. ALL, not some. NOW, not later. EVERYWHERE. For as the Apostle Paul said, if our Gospel be hidden, it is hidden to those who are perishing. And yet the promise is that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Indeed the time for silence has passed. The world needs the capital-C Church to speak up. The world needs the capital-C Church to live the faith is proclaims. The world needs the capital-C Church to lead the way in forgiveness. The world needs the capital-C Church to open the path for healing.
In short, the world needs the capital-C Church. Because the world needs Jesus.
The Apostle Paul asked, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)
Let us RAISE OUR VOICES.
Let us do so NOW, while we still may.