This article is not about what you think. It’s not about climate change, the melting of the polar icecaps, the rise of the ocean levels, or extreme heating in certain regions around the world. Certainly, climate change is an important topic, one that should not be tossed around like a political hot potato, but one that should capture the focus of every national leader as humans attempt to save themselves from a very dire set of circumstances should things go unchecked and uncorrected. All of us need to lean into those conversations and do what we can to promote the environment. But having said that, this article is about a different kind of global warming; one that the church has to take a leading role in solving.
I’m talking about the global warming of anger, violence, aggression, hatred, and prejudice. In case you haven’t noticed, things are warming up. Tensions are increasing. Pressures are mounting. Violence is rising. Caustic words are spewing. Hatred is growing. Bitterness is spreading. Certainly, it is happening on a global level, but it is also happening here… in our culture, in our communities, and God forbid, even in our sometimes-conflicted congregations. We have exchanged civility for the “rightness” of our opinions. We have sacrificed respect on the altar of a “you-have-to-think-like-I-do-or-we-can’t-be-friends” mentality. We once talked of tolerance, understanding, and neighborliness. Now we live with intolerance, exclusion, and the silo-ization of thought.
There are several places where we can place the blame for this type of global warming. We can blame the horrible political rhetoric of our day. We can blame racially motivated violence. We can blame the economic inequalities of our culture. We can blame the extremists among us who turn a lack of understanding and hatred into violence. We can blame any and every religious ideology. We can blame “the system.” We can blame the terrorists. We can blame the news media. Or maybe we can blame the church…
Jesus once did. Remember the day He triumphantly entered Jerusalem? He walked right up to the merchants in the Temple courts and called them to radical change. He overturned the tables, spilled their ill-gotten gain, and chased them off with a whip. He called them all a “bunch of robbers” (John 2:13-17). The religious system of the day had become corrupt. No longer did the Temple and those who managed it represent the God they claimed to worship. Self-interest, greed, and selfishness overtook their hearts and minds. Rather than lead people into the presence of God, they found ways to exploit them and even keep them at arms-length.
I have to ask, have we corrupted the Christian faith to the extent that it is no longer recognizable? Have we bought into a religious system rather than a relational community? Have we repelled more than we have attracted because of our judgmental viewpoints and our inconsistent offerings of grace? Is everyone around us the neighbor to whom we are to extend hospitality and comfort or have we selected only a few as being worthy? Do we spend more time ministering to the poor and hungry or more time fussin’ about what “they” are serving for family-night supper this week? Do we preach messages of racial reconciliation, or decry the evils of injustice, or declare the authentic love of Jesus, or even dare to mention issues like healthcare, poverty, gun violence, or gender identification issues from our pulpits? You see, if we are not being a part of the solution to the global warming of our culture, then we are part of the problem. Jesus never intended for the Church to remain silent, uninvolved, or separated from the realities of life and culture. The way I read it, even the Gates of Hell can’t resist the advancing-march of the Church of Jesus Christ. The only thing that can stop the church is when those within its walls refuse to keep living like Jesus.
The Book of Revelation speaks a word of warning against the church at Ephesus. The Spirit declares that “she had lost her first love,” and as a result, she was in danger of having her “lampstand” removed (Rev. 2:1-7). Researchers predict that by the year 2030 (just 13 years from now) that 1/3 of all of the churches that currently exist here in America, will be gone. Yes, there is a multiplicity of reasons for that stat, however, one factor has to be a loss of relevancy and authenticity. Let us be committed to the Lordship of Christ. Let’s proclaim the message of Salvation He offers. Let’s live like He matters. May the world see Christ in us and in our acts of tender mercy and loving compassion. It’s time to turn down the heat.
-Dr. Jon R Roebuck, Executive Director