Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preaching Like a Prophet |

Preaching Like a Prophet
We dare not be silent about injustices, if only we can see them as God does.

"The prophets are filled with this stuff. No wonder those of us who preach often avoid them. Our listeners don't always like it. We don't like it. (Does anyone really want to encourage such prophet-like behavior in their congregation?)

We like happy books. In most of our churches, it is easier to preach comfort rather than judgment, mercy rather than justice, because by the standards of God's justice, who can ever measure up?

On the other hand, these passages are in the Bible. In fact, the prophets directly account for 250 of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Can you really be a biblical preacher and not address what the prophets have to say?

Why we must preach on justice
More than that, there is a reason why we need to preach on justice. There is a reason for the anger of the prophets, and why we need to submit ourselves to the discipline of regularly sitting under and preaching their words.

Imagine you're listening to someone sing. They are singing off-key, badly off-key, and they're singing loud. If you are musically insensitive—have a tin ear—it doesn't bother you much. If you are musically insensitive and the singer is your grandchild, it may actually make you very pleased.

But if you have perfect pitch—it's a different story. You know what the song could be, should be. You know how far it's off. You look at tin-ear grandma and wonder, How can she stand to listen to this?

This is painful. You're in agony.

We read the prophets and think: What's the big deal? What are they getting all heated up about?

To us, the world is not so bad. Most of us are pretty happy. Things are going okay—at least for me.

I know there's violence in the world. It's regrettable, but as long as it doesn't touch my life, I would prefer not to think much about it. Certainly that's not connected to my anger, self-centeredness, lack of love.

Cheating goes on every day in business. Somebody shades the truth a little for profit—that's just the way things are.

Some 8,000 children are born with or infected with HIV every day in sub-Saharan Africa, and it's now the leading cause of death.

A few miles away from my church, from any church, children are born in poverty, living in ghettos or slums; they will grow up without access to decent education, housing.

But they're not my children. Maybe their parents did something to deserve it. So what if in ancient Israel the poor often got the shaft? Where is it any different? Why go off the deep end?"

This article by John Ortberg really echoes the sentiment in my heart. To be honest, I often feel discontented with the way that we often "do church", because it seems so detached from what the Acts church is like. And I look at my own life, and ask God, what in Christ's name am I doing where I am?

(Just sharing my thoughts. BTW strongly encourage you to read John Ortberg's article in full - it's a well-balanced article that points out the need to be wise and check our motives when preaching about justice... to see that what we preach about is not from a spirit of anger, but a heart broken by the Holy Spirit. There's righteous anger... and then there's self-centred anger.)

To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Often we talk about making church relevant. But frankly, it becomes irrelevant to the world if it does not see us doing all three. The church becomes toothless, a mere teddy bear if it does not hate injustices and fight against them; yet the church is not called to be a judge or God forbid - a punisher: it is called to minister mercy to one another and to the poor and helpless... the outcasts of society and a place of refuge for those weary of trying to be good but cannot. Yet it is not just an army, nor a hospital... it is also called to disciple all who come in to become more like Jesus... and yet to help the proud know that they are still not there in terms of Godliness... to help remind those who want to run off and do great things for God to walk WITH Him...

Wow. Sigh. I feel so deeply discontented. Yet it's not because I hate my church. NO! I love my church, and though not perfect it is... it is growing, by God's grace, and I am part of the church too. If I grow, the church grows. If the church grows, others grow, and so do I. But I feel deeply discontented in the sense that we really ought to lift up our eyes and see the world through the eyes of the Sovereign Lord.

To hear His heartbeat for the lost... for the hungry... for the sick and the oppressed... if we do not heed the call to DO justly, LOVE mercy and WALK humbly with our God, the church becomes irrelevant to God as a piece of filthy, buried, unwashed underwear. (Gross? Yes... just read the book of Jeremiah to understand how much God hates spiritual complacency and "we've-got-it-all-together-already-thank-you-very-much-God" pseudo-spirituality.) Shall we be like the rest of the world in aiming for financial independence, a happy and comfortable retirement, a "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" mentality? To keep on acquiring goods and gadgets day in and out, just for the pleasure of playing with toys? A comfortable life, is that all we want?

Or shall we fix our eyes unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith? To follow Him who has no place to lay His head? To choose the way of the cross? To have a missions-mentality, a kingdom-minded mindset? To go and make disciples of all nations...
To DO justly, LOVE mercy and WALK humbly with our God?
Micah 6:6-8
6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

1 comment:

Huanyan said...

arh.. I read that article earlier in the morning. Quite an interesting article. Interestingly, Leadership Weekly has been publishing a lot of articles regarding social justice these few weeks.