Friday, March 31, 2023

We Are the Revival

 The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

-Luke 10:2-3 (NIV)

To be real honest, I’ve been struggling all week with this post. Since Monday, when Audrey Hale walked into The Covenant School in Nashville and murdered three 9-year-olds and three adult staff members, before being killed by responding police officers. Hale carried at least two “assault-type rifles” and a handgun. 

    Sometimes I think part of the problem in this social media world that we’ve created is that everyone has a take on everything, and an unlimited platform on which to share those takes. So maybe it would be better to do what Josh did with our church’s social media — post a statement, then go dark for the week. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything in situations like this: just pray and try to minister to people who are hurting. Otherwise you can come across as trying to use a tragedy for your own purposes. 

     But then I heard a Tennessee Representative say, “We’re not gonna fix it.” The fuller quote was, “It’s a horrible, horrible situation. And, we’re not gonna fix it….Criminals are gonna be criminals.” He went on to draw a comparison to his father, who fought in World War II, telling him, “If somebody wants to take you out, and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.”

     Makes you wonder if his father would say that he fought for a country in which kids going to school and soldiers going to war carry the same level of risk.

     Obviously, this Representative knows that there are some things that can be done. There are easily-available statistics that offer some idea of a direction that could be taken. There’s no instant fix that will immediately take every gun out of the hands of every bad guy, but the absence of an instant fix doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be done. When he says “We’re not gonna fix it,” he doesn’t mean we can’t, like the guy who told me that my 20-year-old water heater was not repairable and needed to be replaced. He means we won’t. Which is par for the course, I guess, and something for Tennessee voters to consider.

     If he’d stopped there, I wouldn’t have written this. But he tried to justify his giant “Meh” with Christian theology:         

“I think you got to change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church, and I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a revival in this country.” 

     OK, depending on what you mean by “revival,” I might agree with that. But, come on. There are politicians all over this country who want to ban books and legislate against homosexuality or transgenderism even being mentioned in schools. They’re not waiting for “revival” or trying to change people’s hearts; they’re actively trying to pass laws that directly affect students. But where school shootings are concerned, well, let’s just hang in there and pray and maybe God will change some hearts. Just tell the kids to duck in the meantime.

     And I think God must be wondering why in the world we don’t use the sense he gave us, and the resources he blessed our nation with, to do what’s right and at least try to protect the children who depend on us.

     This Representative was asked how he’d want his own daughter protected at school, and his response says a lot about why he just throws up his hands at tragedies like the one at The Covenant School. 

     He said, “Well, we homeschool her.”

    Please listen, ‘cause this why I wrote this: It’s not Christian to elect to hide from the evil and darkness in the world around us. If you roll into the fetal position with the people you care about most and say, “Oh well, nothing to be done until God brings us a revival,” then please don’t pretend you’re anything like Jesus. He never looked away from the sorrow, pain, and evil in the world around him. He didn’t throw up his hands and say “We’ll never fix it.” He didn’t say “Let just wait for revival, let’s just wait for God to change hearts.” He went around trying to change them. He taught. He reminded people to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. But he didn’t stop with that. He called out hypocrites when he saw them, embarrassed them. And he pushed back evil wherever he was, in whatever ways it was destroying human beings; he healed, he cast out demons, he raised the dead. He didn’t wait for revival. He was the revival. 

     And here’s the thing: he sent out his disciples to do and be the same. He sent them - us - to heal and preach. He told them to feed the hungry, and then helped them do it. He didn’t give them the option of not engaging with the world; he sent them, in the power of his Spirit, to declare that the kingdom of God has come — and to do its works.

     He sent them out, he said, “like lambs among wolves.” Our children shouldn’t be the lambs sacrificed to the teeth and claws and guns of predators because we should be in front of them. People who follow Jesus don’t get the luxury of being safe and comfortable. We should be engaged with the world around us, with the people around us who need to be healed and loved and cared for and forgiven, who need to know the good news of God’s Kingdom. And if we suffer wounds from the wolves in the process, just know that our Lord did too. 

     As a matter of fact, how we take those wounds can be eloquent witness to the kingdom of God. Heal when you’re welcomed, Jesus says, and bear the wounds you receive with grace and limp away when you’re not. Either way, Jesus says, “be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.” 

     The problems in our world that so many Christians point to now — “woke” people, creeping socialism, Islam, gay and transgender rights — are smokescreens for the real problems. Sadly, many of those problems are in pews on Sundays. Entitled people who, in the name of Jesus, point fingers at everyone else and wring our hands over how bad things are. Those of us who go to church on Sundays but are absolutely useless to the kingdom of God the rest of the week. Those of us who actually think that the rights some rich white guys said we have in a moldy document two centuries ago is the only subject worth putting ourselves on the line for. 

     It’s frankly embarrassing that a United States Representative would try to excuse his inertia by saying that his church tells him that what’s needed is revival. We are the revival. If we believe in Jesus, how could we think  otherwise? If we believe that his Spirit is in us and among us, how could we imagine anything else? Jesus didn’t seem to think the kingdom needed strategists telling us what to wait and look for, or politicians amassing power; he said to pray for “workers” to be sent into the harvest field. And he also said to “go” — because it’s not enough, I guess, just to pray for workers. 

     “Like sheep among wolves.” It won’t be easy. It wasn’t for Jesus, either. No one would give the sheep much of a chance. But we aren’t ordinary sheep. Or, more precisely, our Shepherd is no ordinary shepherd.

     Don’t believe anyone who says that there’s nothing to be done about the evil in our world. Believe our Lord, who says, “Go.” Who says, “Heal.” Who says, “Preach.” And who says, “The kingdom of God is near.” Near. Not someday when revival comes. Not someday in heaven. Near. Now.

     We are the revival. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

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