Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Speaking Out Boldly

My reflection on yesterday's Daily Texts:

If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," then within me there is something like a burning fire. - Jeremiah 20:9

"We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard." - Acts 4:20

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 80:12-19; Isaiah 15,16; Ephesians 1:11-23

It's ironic, or hypocritical, or something, to focus on the day's Jeremiah and Acts verses in this blog that's supposed to be a daily reflection (as the title Take Up Today even says!) but where I don't come close to posting every day. In fact, it's Tuesday as I'm writing this reflection on Monday's texts. So can I really claim that "within me there is something like a burning fire," or that I "cannot keep from speaking" about God's word and actions?

Well, I'm going to "sin boldly" and argue that yes, I can claim those things. And so can you.

It's true that I don't speak out for God perfectly, or even consistently. If you're keeping score, you should know that much more often than I post here, I do at least read the daily texts and ponder them and pray to God over them. But some days, I don't even get that far. Busyness is my go-to excuse, but we all know it's a lousy excuse. If we really had a burning desire to do something, we would set other things aside and get it done, right? So I make mistakes and bad decisions in my priorities and places to put my energy. Often my problem is that I haven't prioritized my own self-care enough to get enough sleep or sabbath time to have the capacity to stick to the things I think are most important.

But the thing is that perfection and consistency are not the ultimate goals of Christian life. We could say that faithfulness is much closer to the goal, keeping Jesus at the center, staying oriented toward the path he calls us to follow, walking ahead step by step whatever happens. But I think the best way of stating our goal, given to us by Jesus himself, is love. Love God with everything you've got. And love your neighbor as yourself. And since "all our heart and soul and strength and mind" adds up to something finite and less-than-perfect, I think Jesus must be OK with less-than-perfect faithfulness and obedience.

Martin Luther picked up this idea. He didn't exactly say "sin boldly." His exact words, in a letter to his colleague Philip Melanchthon, are "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world." He meant that whatever we do in life, it won't be perfect, but tainted with the brokenness of sin. But it's not our perfection, neither in faith nor in anything else, that achieve favor or merit for us with God. We are saved by grace, through the perfect faithfulness of Christ.

This is how I can say that yes, I do identify with the prophet Jeremiah, and with Peter and John who spoke the bold words of Acts 4:20 before an accusing council. I do speak out. And I keep on doing it, despite a lot of obstacles including my own shortcomings. God moves me to keep at it, and so I do.

And so can you!

It would be a great loss for any Christian voice to be silenced because of guilt or shame over not speaking perfectly. That's the point of being a Christian! - that we can't be perfect, but that by the grace of God in Christ, we are accepted and called and equipped and sent anyway, to speak the word of God into the world! It's the devil who wants you to believe it has to be done perfectly, or not at all. Jesus chose a bunch of imperfect followers, and continues to do so. And these imperfect people become the imperfect church, through which God continues to work.

So I'll keep speaking out. Ideally, every day - but in reality, not so much. And that's OK. And I encourage you to speak out, in your own way, as boldly and as often as you're able!

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