2 Comments

There’s Only One Hope

Everybody seems to have something to say about the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting riots there and in other cities around the country but something that even many of the most righteous church people seem to be neglecting is the spiritual aspect of all of this.
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It’s easy to write a moving Facebook post. It’s easy to condemn privileged white people. It’s easy to defend the actions of law enforcement placed in difficult situations. It’s easy to call for justice and declare it a Scriptural mandate. It’s easy to sympathize with (and even support) the rioters as using whatever means they can to be heard…even illegal ones. It’s easy to protest in solidarity with the apparent victims.
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But what is needed isn’t more laws or an assurance of justice. What is needed isn’t more cops fired and jailed. What is needed isn’t giving the victims a pass to be law breakers. What is needed, at least as a first step, is a recognition of the sinful world we live in which will never be fully redeemed until the finality of God’s restoration of His people and planet.
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We will never see the U.S. fit the vision that so many dream of in the coming Kingdom of God. We can take everyone’s guns. We can jail every racist. We can resist violence and insist on nonviolence. We can put into action everything that is suggested in the thousands of “inspired” Facebook posts, but sin will continue and with sin, hatred and with hatred, racism.
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Can we do anything to make a difference? Not as long as we think in worldly terms like “rights” and “justice” and “legal” and “privilege” and all the rest. Sure, you can make a case for using these terms from Scripture, but all of them on their own are powerless and useless. We may take racists and haters off the streets and put them into the jails but that won’t change who they are or why they hate, or remove the hatred from the hearts of those who haven’t yet broken a law.
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What is needed in our country, and what few seem willing to encourage or pursue (likely for fear of being offensive or being labeled as “judgmental”), is a Christian outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
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This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, a day on the Christian calendar when we remember -even celebrate- the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and Christ followers. What Pentecost did in Jerusalem was a reversal of the judgement at the Tower of Babel, bringing together people of all nations and races who had been separated since the confusion of languages at Babel-those who had considered each other enemies and saw others as beneath them or even less-than-human. Pentecost initiated the work of the Holy Spirit through the people of the Church to reconcile humankind to God and to each other.
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It is only the Holy Spirit who can change the hearts of men and women who now only see violence against each other as the answer. It is only the Holy Spirit who can effectively check a police officer when he/she begins to go too far in subduing a subject. It is only the Holy Spirit who can convict rioters that their actions accomplish nothing but bringing pain and suffering to their own community. It is only the Holy Spirit who can cause people of different colors and different nationalities to love each other (really love) and care about each other’s welfare (really care). It is only the Holy Spirit who can give wisdom to those who would rather continue dividing our nation and stirring things up with their posts and platitudes than actually making a difference.
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Could we see the Holy Spirit work like that in the U.S.? Pentecost will never be repeated (so don’t expect “the sound like the blowing of a violent wind” or tongues of fire to rest on your head!) but the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost remains available to us. The 120 who first experienced Pentecost didn’t just show up and receive Him but prepared for the gift that Jesus promised. I suggest that we can prepare for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a similar way.
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First, the 120 were obedient, they did what Jesus told them when he promised the Holy Spirit. Second they praised God, they went to worship and they met with the Church. Third, they prayed (and prayed and prayed). Fourth, they were together, more than just geographically but in mind, heart and spirit. They were unified with a common goal that flowed from their obedience and desire to receive what Jesus had promised.
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What do you think would happen if instead of taking sides or taking to the streets or taking out our neighbor with a well-crafted argument, we came together and in obedience, got on our knees and prayed -not for our enemies to be defeated- but for our enemies to be overwhelmed with the matchless love of God? What do you think would happen if instead of the Church forming sides like political parties, we became bipartisan in our pursuit of holiness and in our desire to see our communities converted and filled with the Holy Spirit? What do you think would happen if instead of urging our government to act and attempt to legislate what only a commitment to Christ and the infilling of His Holy Spirit can accomplish, we took to the streets -not to protest- but to love, to share the Gospel in word and deed, to call others to a commitment to Christ and to urge them on to perfection through the power of the Holy Spirit?
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I’ll tell you what would happen: God will be empowered to act by our prayers. God will work through our actions. God will draw sinners, haters and racists to Him and change their lives and hearts. God will make our communities -our nation- examples of His grace and love poured out on people who seek Him, who desire Him, who crave Him, who realize that He is our only hope.
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2 comments on “There’s Only One Hope

  1. There’s no question that a spiritual element is involved in what is happening. And let’s face it: As preachers, that’s our go-to solution. But it seems like we don’t know how to walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s not a question of needing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit OR working to address grievances in practical ways. In fact, filled with the Holy Spirit, we must make changes. But to know what changes to make, we first must listen. I’ve been reading as many first person stories I can on social media from African-American men and women, stories of everyday kinds of prejudices faced just while trying to live life. A great lead in question for each other is: “What’s upsetting you these days?” But then we’d better be prepared to listen! I appreciate you, Chaplain Densford. Thank you for your service.

    • Greg, Thanks for you comments, I always appreciate your insights!

      I completely agree with you to an extent (so I guess not completely! 😉 ) We *also* need to work to improve our society/communities in practical ways but I would quickly add IF those practical ways will have any significant impact. Look at the long fight to overturn Roe v. Wade, for example. I have to wonder if all of the energy and money that has been spent on that effort had instead been spent on “spiritual” efforts (prayer, evangelism, help to unwed mothers, etc.) if nearly the same effect as overturning the law would have occurred by now.

      And then there’s the fact that often those practical ways include new laws or regulations which will be obeyed by law-abiding citizens/cops. The trouble is, those who hate so much that it results in death and destruction won’t be stopped by a law or regulation but the Holy Spirit in a new life vested in Christ can cleanse them from the hate that drives them to violence.

      My fear is that the both/and path will just lead to doing the easy work (protesting, writing moving posts, championing new legislation) instead of taking the Gospel to the streets in word and deed.

      Listening: absolutely! I was changed during my months in D.C. when I was able to walk the streets and instead of turning away and continuing to my destination, I stopped and talked to people who were asking for money, trying to con me or out protesting. That time was perhaps the most enlightening time of my life. But even though I learned about what some people were going through and what their physical or temporal needs were, the bottom line is that their ultimate need is salvation empowered by the Holy Spirit. I can give them a $20 bill and that may help for a while, and will definitely buy me a few minutes with them, but with that $20 I can perhaps persuade them to consider their spiritual need…at least planting seeds…then I am really making a difference. I can begin to understand their plight as a person of color and can offer them my support, and even work with them for new laws to punish those whose hate is revealed in violence or other crimes, but again, their and their oppressor’s greatest need -and, I contend, only hope of success- is a changed life.

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