Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Will We Rise Up or Stare?

Having lived in Portland much of my life, I am grieved (infuriated really) over the nightly defacing and destruction of its beauty (as I see in other cities). What provokes me most is the failure of leadership. We have seemingly stood by while others bent on ruin and chaos have had their way. It’s not just a lack of political will. Is it not also an ecclesiastical will that is absent?  I can’t help but wonder where the church is.

There is a troubling story in a book few probably care to read. The narrative tells us the times were similar–desperate. People suffered under a difficult rule. Sin had intruded and vandalized the shalom. The text uses a word that speaks of torment. But God is never absent, oblivious, unconcerned, and indifferent. Though people turn from God, he responds when we cry out for him. But it would require a bold leader to save, someone willing to confront the darkness. Unfortunately, when he was summoned, a pusillanimous Barak held back. At the climax of the battle, he could only stand and stare and lose what honor would be his (Judg 4:20).

As I read this story in Judges, an Old Testament book often overlooked for its “rough, raw and confrontive nature” (Webb), I could not help but see a parallel with today. Are we like Barak, lacking courage and resolution? Will the church be found simply staring?

I believe I speak for others who would agree that these are days the church needs to—

-rise above the political rhetoric and point to the one true hope—the Lord God who is above all political causes, parties, or political leaders

-reject the identity politics—the kind that aims to settle scores and establish who is pure and who is stained

-refuse to align with the ideological social justice that is coopting the biblical justice spoken of in Scripture

-speak out against racism—be it of any color–underscoring that in God’s kingdom all lives matter to God and share equally in his love

-acknowledge we’re all stained and broken and indebt to God and in need of his forgiveness

-affirm we have but one authority—God and his will, as revealed in Scripture, which has the final word on every life choice

-speak against movements aimed at defacing beauty and marginalizing others

-come together and pray deeply, beginning with pastors uniting to call upon God for his mercy and his help

-stand up—and if necessary–peacefully march with the aim—not to align with any group or political cause—but simply to be the church that is passionate for the righteousness and compassion of God, demonstrating that the church is not about politics or social causes but about a much higher purpose—serving the intentions of God, seeing lives transformed into Christlike wholeness for the glory of God.


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