Happy New Year!  I hope that you had a great Christmas and New Years with your families.  We had a great Christmas in the great white north of Robbinsville.  The white Christmas thing was incredible, even though I barely made it home Christmas Eve.

There was a lot that was missed and lost in 2020.  2021 has started with a bang. Like you, I was very discouraged by what played out in DC last week; it’s hard to understand what’s going on.  As I watched in disbelief at yet another disgraceful social uprising, the Lord was whispering in my spirit to read Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.   Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“ Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Matthew 5:3-12 (NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Then I went to my Facebook news feed, which was a mistake, and read some of the opinion missiles being launched back and forth.  I was tempted, for a moment, to join in.  Then the Lord told me to read these instead:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

“He has shown you, O mortal, 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.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

The Lord was using this as a teaching moment for yours truly.  As I started to allow myself to get fired up about current events, the Lord sent a little shot across my bow, a reminder that there is a better way.

According to the verses above, my reaction and role in this madness is clear.  Since we (followers of Christ) are called to “live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. To be “in step” makes me think about marching.  We have all seen the military on the parade grounds or a band marching in perfect unison.  It’s pretty amazing to see that many people working together.  But, it doesn’t come easily.  They have to practice and drill relentlessly to achieve that kind of perfection.

How do I keep “in step” with the Spirit?  By practicing, developing, and demonstrating the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Mastery of any or all of these fruits is difficult to achieve.  It takes a lifetime.  Our training in righteousness never ends.

Another part of keeping “in step” with Spirit is rejecting our natural fleshly passions and desires that should have been crucified with Christ.  These fleshly desires and passions are contributing or fueling the current social unrest.  Paul mentions a few of them in Galatians 5:26:  conceit, provocation, and envy.

  • Conceit:  Excessive pride in oneself, arrogance, thinking we are greater than anyone else, that our opinions matter more than anyone else, and that we are morally superior.
  • Provoke: to stimulate, incite, or arouse an emotional or physical response, to deliberately annoy or anger someone else, or too pick a fight.
  • Envy: desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attributes belonging to someone else.  This can also include power and control.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

It is interesting that Paul uses the word “urge” in this passage.  It captures the tone of our current circumstances.  There is an incredible sense of urgency permeating through our social consciousness right now. There is an insistence on swift and decisive action on many fronts.  While this passage may not provide immediate solutions to our current circumstances, it does provide guidance for those who seek the Lord’s will.  What is God’s will? Transformation. A renewed mind.  A life that is in step with the spirit.

As I watched the news on January 6th, I saw a man waving a Jesus flag in the middle of the riot.  I cringed. Then, I read aggressive and provocative social media posts from Christians on both sides of the debate attacking one another and claiming the moral high ground.  I don’t think Jesus wants this kind of publicity.  This is one of the prime examples of why the church is in decline.  It’s hard to tell the difference between the church and our culture.  We were called to be imitators of Christ not a mirror image or echo of our culture.

It’s too easy to get caught up in or conform to the pattern of this world.  Instead of demonstrating the fruit of the spirit, we enthusiastically join in the fight. Instead of offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, we add fuel to the fire.

Recently, someone told me that the church needed to get out of politics.  I agree.  Jesus isn’t and wasn’t political, at least not in the way we think.  Jesus revolutionary alternative was not about power or meant to fit a political system.  It was a revolution of the heart, mind, and spirit.

I have to admit that I struggle to stay out of the discussion, which is a nice way of putting it.  I have to keep reminding myself of that old saying.  “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  Here is a nursery rhyme that asks a poignant question for our consideration.

A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren’t we all more like this bird?

James 1:19-27 is another passage the Lord shared with me this morning.  Enjoy.

Love y’all!

Robby Morris
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management
Andrews UMC