It takes “guts” to be a pastor today! In a culture afire with American nationalism, political rancor, racial tension, border crises, and separated families, everyone has a “side.” And pity the poor pastor, whatever the size church she or he leads, who attempts to speak a radically redemptive word into such a mileu.
But there is a desperate need for a reasoned, scripturally grounded, and theologically sound voice in our world. People are desperate for hope, and the holiness tradition should be one of the places where that hope is well articulated, radically lived, and lovingly embraced.
We who claim to see the possibility of radical transformation of the human heart in scripture, who have historical narratives about cultures being changed and nations reformed, should not be fearful to speak this hope into these troubled times.
But we must speak this hope into congregations of people. Our churches must not be political forums where we attempt to correct the nations leaders from the pulpit. They are not listening anyway.
We have an obligation to speak to people – to our people – encouraging them to become the representation of the “already – not yet” Kingdom of God. Let’s exalt Christ as our hope, our leader, our example, and our redemption. Let’s call for our people to embody the Sermon on the Mount as the lived expression of the Kingdom, as the Law of God described for living in our time. Let’s invite them to pursue the holy life with zeal, discipline, and passionate dependence on the Holy Spirit.
And, and by our own example, we must insist that this message has no value until it propels us into the foray with holy love, reaching across racial and cultural lines, meeting the desperate needs of people all around us.
We holiness folk can easily draw our righteous robes around us and become isolated from the brokenness so evident in our neighborhoods. Let’s reject that kind of isolation and begin to express the radical hospitality of Jesus, who loved sinners, embraced outcasts, reached across every boundary, and risked being classed with drunks and prostitutes. That reach did not contaminate his holiness. His holiness changed the world.
This is risky business, Pastor. But take courage. Speak up. Live the holy life. Demonstrate holy love. The message is worth the risk!
Jesse C Middendorf
July 11, 2018