One of the great joys of our recent trip to Africa was the opportunity to visit with South African Bishop Peter Storey.
Now retired and pushing 80, he still has the twinkle in his eye and the fire in his bones that has always made him such a winsome and powerful witness for the Gospel, particularly in the years when he stood along side Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in the struggle against apartheid. For Peter it was not a political struggle, it was a moral struggle. He was convinced that if the church was to be the church it had to be willing to confront the evils of the day and speak the word of truth, even if it was costly. In fact, his book “With God in the Crucible” carries the sub-title “Preaching Costly Discipleship”.
When I got home I pulled out the book. In so many ways it speaks to our own day in America when gun violence is killing all to many people and the rise of white supremacy and bigotry is tearing at the fabric of our society; when the jingoism of “America First” and the arrogance of greed is isolating us from our brothers and sisters around the world; when sexual aggression by men in power continues to dehumanize women. The list could go on and on. Peter’s words are a call for the church to be the church and to lift up the values of the Kingdom of God over/against those prevailing values. He says “business as usual” for the church means living into that Kingdom now. He writes:
“If false gods are failing and if God’s victory is assured, then even though this world has yet to acknowledge Him, we must live in His future now. For the followers of Christ, he is already Lord–NOW!
In a world of cruelty we know that compassion and caring will one day rule, so we will demonstrate them NOW.
While this world bows to the love of power, we will cry “No!”. We will live by the power of love NOW.
While truth lies fallen in the streets, we will affirm that Jesus, who is the truth, is Lord and we will live by His truth NOW.
While people live comfortably with injustice we know that justice will one day rule. It must therefore be our standard NOW.
While people continue to trust in military might, we know that the Prince of Peace is Lord and we will cast out violence from our midst NOW.
That is what “business as usual” is all about for Christians. That is what Christian hope is all about–not sentimental optimism but the insight that enables us even in the face of the darkest hour to know that Christ is Lord. Christian hope is living by God’s future NOW. ” (“With God in the Crucible”, page 54)
In all honesty, I can’t say I have always lived up to Peter’s challenge and in my ministry I have not always been as bold as he in confronting the evils in our society that are out of step with the values of the Kingdom. But in my own feeble and failing way I’ve tried to lift up those values and live into that future Kingdom because in my better moments, I agree with Peter–that is what “business as usual” for the church should be NOW.
Until God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth, even as it is in heaven,