There have been a lot of disturbing stories to report on in the news recently. We have had hurricanes that have devastated Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and other areas of the world. Mexico City was hit with a powerful earthquake that killed hundreds of people and they are still digging out the dead. Seven people were shot on a Sunday morning at a church in Tennessee. One died. North Korea has fired long range missiles over Japan, our ally. Threats have been made by North Korea against us and our President has made some very strong threats as well. Healthcare and the future of healthcare has been a major source of debate in Congress. Hundreds of young people are killed by gun violence in our inner cities every day. In Fairfield County, Ohio, deaths from drug overdose are up 44%. Each of these touch our hearts to help through prayer and giving. Yet, recently the trending topics on social media and the news and in our conversations revolve around the National Anthem, the NFL, and the players and coaches kneeling.
I’m not writing to defend one side or the other in that debate. What the debate has devolved into has turned into a distraction from the real issues that we face as a society and the needs of those who are suffering from natural disasters. Imagine what would happen if we expended as much effort helping the hurricane or earthquake victims as we do trying to get NFL players to stand up during the National Anthem? Imagine what could be accomplished if we used that same energy to combat gun violence and/or drug abuse in and around our communities? Just picture what this world would look like if we really cared deeply about people and loved them unconditionally enough to truly show them and tell them of the love of Jesus. What could happen if we loved with the same passion that we are boycotting the NFL and vitriolically lambasting each other and the NFL and the players on social media or in our conversations?
What difference will it really make in the world if all NFL players stand for the National Anthem? Can you see the difference it would make in this world if we loved others with the same love that Jesus loved us? Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will
prove to the world that you are my disciples” John 13:34-35 (NLT). Others will see Jesus and experience His love and grace in a very real way and may be transformed by it. Isn’t that what we, as the church, are all about?
Yet, like our society today, we lose sight of what truly matters only to be distracted by other things that really have no lasting significance. We fight over petty things and decisions in the church. We focus on everything else except what Jesus created the church to be. We say things that hurt each other, whether intentionally or not. Our worship can become less about God and more about how or what we do. We can get caught up in details and lose sight of the larger picture of what we, as the church, are called and sent to do.
Maybe we can learn a lesson from the US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis. When a reporter asked him about the NFL players and the National Anthem, he replied, “I’m the Secretary of Defense. We defend the country.” He knew what his mission was and he wasn’t going stray from that. What would this world look like if we as the church, when faced with distractions, demonstrated in both word and action, “We are the church and as disciples of Jesus Christ, we love God, each other and our neighbor as ourselves. We make disciples of Jesus Christ so that the world may be transformed.” That’s our mission. “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). And Jesus is in that mission with us!
Grace and peace,