During our recent Deacons’ retreat, as part of an “icebreaking” exercise, we played a game based on the 50’s hit TV show, What’s My Line? , where panelists tried to guess the occupations of various guests.
This brought to mind another 50’s game show, also with a question mark in its title, Who Do You Trust? Aside from the poor grammar found in its title, it got me to thinking about the whole matter of trust. Whom exactly should we trust?
In a sermon a few weeks ago I posed a variation on this question. In essence, I asked: Whom do you trust to guide and direct your life? Whom do you trust to set the agenda for society? Whom do you trust to define the future for you and your family, morally, ethically, and spiritually? These are not esoteric questions.
I then offered a few possible suggestions, though admittedly tongue-in-cheek: The Supreme Court? Congress? The president (the current one or those aspiring to the office)? The U.N.? World leaders? Wall Street? Silicon Valley? The Chamber of Commerce? Hollywood? The media? College and university professors? Scientists? Psychologists?
But if not any of these, then whom should it be? Whom do you want guiding and directing the future, of setting the values and norms we as individuals and as a society should aspire to and live by?
Now if I were asking a group of children in church, they’d get it right away: “Jesus!” they’d say without a moment’s hesitation. And, of course, they’d be right. But when you consider the substitutes for Jesus we tend to follow in our everyday life (after we leave church, that is), then maybe it’s a question we should ask ourselves more often.
Part of the problem is that we’ve been taught that the church should stay out of the important affairs of life. This is, of course, a fundamental misreading of the U.S. Constitution which sought not to restrict religious free speech, but to protect it from government interference. Properly, the separation of church and state serves only to underscore our basic God-given human right to worship and express ourselves freely.
If we stay out of any and all efforts to shape and mold the world around us, then who will? For, as I said in the sermon, nature abhors a vacuum. If we fail to see the merit and value of the gospel and its salient effect on culture, we will fail that very same culture by allowing other, less morally and spiritually enlightened viewpoints to prevail.
Of course, the best way we can achieve relevance is by continuing to worship, pray, and serve in Christ’s name. This often silent witness is extremely powerful and affects our world in ways even we remain but unaware. The power of Christ’s love is ineffable and unstoppable.
It is high time for the church to cease its self-imposed retreat from its historic mission. That mission, to bring the joys and blessings of the gospel to life, within our hearts, this community, and, by extension, to the world beyond, is today as vital and important – if not more so – than it’s ever been.
Grace and peace,
Thomas C. Leinbach, Pastor