As I watch or read the news and have the opportunity to engage with people one-on-one, it seems as though the prevailing sentiment in the world today is uncertainty. The political climate is stranger than any time in my life. The forces of evil, extremism, and destruction across the world seem undeterred by efforts to silence them. We all watched the coverage of Charlottesville close enough to know that America’s original sin of racism has not been forgotten and has found new life among new groups of people. What is the church’s role in middle of all of this?
In times of uncertainty it seems like we tend to grab hold of those things about which we can be certain. That’s not always a bad thing. As the members of the Body Christ we are always called to follow the Great Commandment to love God with all that we are and all that we have, while loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are also always called to follow the Great Commission to make disciples for Jesus Christ. We are also constantly sent on mission into our neighborhood like the seventy followers of Jesus sent in Luke 10. Those things do not change. They may just look different at different times.
The calling of the church and of people of faith is often a difficult one. It requires that we keep our eyes open to evil among us, and when necessary name it for what it is. It requires us to stand up for the good of our neighbors and work for justice for those who feel left out or excluded. It requires that we use what we have to empower others to find and live into the abundant life offered by Jesus Christ. If we were to sum it all up, we are called to bear witness to Jesus.
In times of uncertainty like these, questioning what role I have to play as a person of faith, a pastor, and part of Augusta Road Baptist Church, I am constantly drawn back to the beginning of the Book of Acts. I am constantly drawn to those last few moments between Christ and his disciples right before he makes his ascension. He tells them that since he will no longer physically be with them their job is to be his witnesses. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” he tells them, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
To be a witness is to testify to what you have seen. It comes from the same Greek word from which we get the word martyr. It is a legal term like we would think of it today as one stands in the courtroom to offer evidence to shed light on the matter under deliberation. These days the world needs witnesses to the fact that the Spirit of Jesus Christ is still alive and active in the world. The world needs those who have eyes to see hope, joy, and Godly potential when others only see brokenness. We need those who know that, no matter how uncertain things seem today, there is still reason to hold onto the faith that tells us that God is still enthroned on high and will have the ultimate say in what happens. We need those who will offer the prophetic witness that says God is calling us to so much more than what we see around us, and we will not stop partnering with God until God’s kingdom has come and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
That is how we live out our calling as the church in uncertain times. We bear witness to the presence, work, and hope of Christ. Be a witness. Let’s be witnesses together.
Rev. W. Mattison King