From Where I Stand: An Appeal

Do you remember Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's historic address to the United States Congress? 

I'll never forget sitting on my couch at 6 a.m. crying as I watched this brave leader plead for help. As he spoke, his nation was being torn apart by enemy forces. 

Zelenskyy's speech, which was given as a virtual address to members of Congress, came as the United States was under pressure from Ukraine to supply more military assistance to the embattled country. The speech featured a short video with harrowing scenes from the war-torn country graphically depicting the brutal and deadly toll of the invasion. At the end, the screen read: "close the sky over Ukraine."

Thinking back to that speech, I see striking similarities between the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what I see happening in our church. Our church is under attack. An enemy is seeking to destroy the ground we've claimed for God by any means possible. 

Sometimes the attacks are subtle. Other times the assaults are full-blown air strikes. The enemy masquerades as people claiming to be on God's side yet all the while driving people away by angry judgmental self-righteousness. The enemy destroys by getting families to fight against  each other, and by spreading rumors and fake news. People bring the religion of politics into the church and cling to that instead of holding on to the hand of the Almighty God.

The enemy's tanks, artillery and well-aimed missiles are tearing our churches apart. Casualties are everywhere. Just like Ukraine, where there aren't enough people to bury the dead, most of our churches no longer have active young adult participation. They've left, not because they don't believe in God. They don't believe in the church members.

So why all the spiritual chaos? I found an interesting clue in something Thomas Schelling, the economist and Nobel Prize winner said. "Game theory is merely the study of how rational people interact when they know that their decisions impinge on each other."

What would happen if we stop and take note of how our actions and words might impact others. Often, we appear so focused on sharing truth but seem to forget to look at the fallout from how and when we speak. How do our words and actions impinge on the lives of those around us?

Thinking back to what prompted all these thoughts, I have a Zelenskyy-like appeal for my fellow believers:

People sitting in the pews, please stand up and help! We are under attack and desperately need your assistance right now. Today is the day to live out God's love to everyone you meet. Be more concerned about showing God's love than you are about showing judgment. "Judgment is Mine," says God, not yours. 

People sleeping through church, wake up! Wake up and close the sky over your church families. Form a shield around your vulnerable, shelter the weak and discouraged. Be God's hands and feet so people can see His love in action and find hope.

Consider before you speak and before you act. Deliberate on the effect your words and actions have. There's enough chaos already. Stop the fighting, and together, let's provide the world with the antidote Jesus came to show us: God's love. 

Featured in: May/June 2022

Author

Jay Wintermeyer

North Pacific Union assistant to the president for communication and Gleaner editor
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