I was speaking to my congregation the other day about the art of being good guests. Are we a welcome presence in the lives of others?
It has been said that key to this art is never to mention religion or politics! But how in 2017 to be good guests and people of integrity? These are not easy times in which to get the balance right.
Certainly it isn’t good for people of faith to be silent on the great issues of the day. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
In church life we place a high value on unity and concord – and rightly so. Does that force us into silence on issues that polarize, or issues on which our wider society is in conflict? Should we, for the sake of church-unity, choose to avoid talking together about topics exciting high emotion in our society right now?
Corrie Ten Boom – imprisoned for helping Jews to escape the Nazi holocaust
However silence does not avoid our taking a side. De facto we take sides when we fail to speak. We have taken a side when we fail to speak for those who are weak or for those who are vulnerable.
Think about those who were silent or neutral in the lead up and prosecution of the holocaust of WWII. Think about those who chose to be silent, neutral and not get involved in “politics” in the face of the brutalities that necessitated the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. They don’t appear quite so neutral today do they? Judged by history their silence was not neutral. Because silence always empowers the powerful and the bully, never the powerless and the victim. We don’t look back on those who chose that path and say, “Yes but at least they kept their churches united”!
If I am proponent of the Kingdom of God – as taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ, then I am a proponent of a realm where God’s values and ways are made manifest. The Gospel opens up for us what those values and ways are. To speak of God’s Kingdom is to speak of Jesus’ values, Jesus’ measures of goodness and justice, Jesus’ love for the hungry, the destitute, the sick, the outcast and those in prison; Jesus’ self-sacrificing love for people. That is something far from silence. It is a message full of grace and truth.
Full of grace and truth is a phrase by which John the Gospel writer describes the character of Jesus. The greatest guest there ever was. When he came he showed us a way of being that makes very clear to those who would follow his example that, with all the warnings of history shouting to us so urgently, this is no time to be silent.