[This is a quite lengthy commentary on the decisions World Vision made last week that rocked the face of Christianity and why in spite of them, I'm still going to support the mission of World Vision]
This week, World Vision US has certainly had an impact, although not the one that they intended. In deciding to amend their hiring policy to include gay, married Christians, the organization distanced themselves from the strength of their conservative partnerships. In reversing that decision two days later, they betrayed the compassion and trust of their progressive supporters.
Now, that’s equality.
At the end of the day, if you ask me, the events of the week have illustrated more about the state of Christianity in the US than about World Vision itself.
That so-called Conservative Christians would walk away from their commitments to child sponsorships and team partnership to provide clean water in area development projects is shameful.
That so-called Progressive Christians would engage child sponsorships as a reward for the seemingly right decision of the mission organization is embarrassing.
The children we sponsor through organizations like World Vision are neither punishments nor rewards. They are people, human beings. However, this week, they looked a lot more like pawns in a political skirmish between combative ideologies.
World Vision is an organization that makes it possible for the Church in the US to be transformed through a ministry of The Good Sheep (Matthew 25:31-40).
Let’s be honest. In our current Christian climate, many of us are pew sitters. The worship service has become for so many what the Lazy Boy is on Football Sunday. We have become arm-chair Christians: criticizing the sermon, talking about what we would have sung if we led the praise band and complaining that ‘they‘ never do enough. If we were in charge, we’d be doing all things that Jesus wants the Church to be doing. But what is that?
Jesus invites his Church into the ministry of the obvious: to care for those who cannot care for themselves. If we read beyond verse 40, what we find is that there is no reward for not doing it. Jesus doesn’t frame context, he doesn’t say you must not serve the poor with those people or those people. He just says the gift of grace must be given. World Vision is an organization that helps us give that gift.
When we serve the poor in the world, we are not doing something good, something that we can do or not do. We are being obedient to our King who has asked us to respond to the needs of the world.
Child Sponsorship, running for clean water, these things are not good deeds that we choose to do out of the goodness of our hearts. They have to serve as a response to a God who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves; who believes that we can make a difference for his Kingdom.
Kennon Callahan wrote in his book, “Effective Church Leadership: Building on the Twelve Keys,”
“God is in the World. When the Church is in the World, God is in the Church. When the Church is not in the World, God is in the World.”
The Church has to be in the world and World Vision is really good at connecting pews to people. I can’t think of another organization that gets church people to run marathons to get clean water to people who need it. World Vision not a Board that makes decisions, it’s men and women on the ground that do ministry that matters to the heart of Jesus. Yep, we can come to a full stop over hiring policies. Yep, we can abandon and de-commit, but remember the story of the Wedding Party? [Mt 22:1-14]
A King invited many guests to his home for a wedding feast. On the day of the feast, every one of his guests declined to show up – one can only imagine the range of excuses. So a very disgusted King threw the party for anyone who would come.
Anyone who would come.
The King will care for the poor. He wants to use you to do that. But you are not essential, because,
We live in a culture where it’s more convenient to have our personal agendas drive our corporate mission. Child Sponsorship is an opportunity for our corporate mission in the world to tranform our personal agendas.
If hiring policies break your heart, but impoverished children don’t, you might be dealing with a pretty serious compassion problem. If you will excuse me for saying, fair hiring practices are not a Kingdom priority. They are an American one, a political one. Jesus told a parable about it [Mt 20:1-16]. The hero is this story is an unfair hirer.
Question: Is it possible to have a wrong opinion?
Is it at least possible that your opinion might separate you from the work God is inviting you into? That’s an important question. Let’s not confuse things. There is no Biblical mandate to blog.
We tend to make every decision based upon the right-ness of our opinions. We choose friends, restaurants, churches and missions based upon what aligns to our sense of right. That’s admirable and deepliy individual, but what if your right-ness is not…well, not right?
There has to be some way to have our right-ness re-righted.
Jesus had a way of doing this. We bring him our love and he points to our enemy. We bring him our bling and he points us to the pawn shop. We bring him our compassion and he points us to the cross.
Us: But Jesus, don’t you care about the things that I care most about?
Us: That’s it??? I’m on the edge here – using your name the way it was meant to be used: to stand up for what is right!
Jesus: Right according to whom?
Us: According to you!
Jesus: That’s funny…I don’t really remember a time when you asked me, when you really sought out my feelings on I thought was right.
Us: But I read that passage! You know the one…the one in one of the Gospels. Rob Bell even preached on it. C’mon Jesus, you know that verse.
Jesus: Is it the one I said?
Us: You said it or someone said it about you. It’s like the reason I do everything.
Jesus: Well, I’m here now. Do you want to ask me anything?
Us: Why are so many things unfair?
Jesus: Life is complex. It’s murky and non-linear. What is unfair to one person always seems fair to someone else.
Us: Right! It’s always fair for The Man, the one who has all the power.
Jesus: Yeah, I address that a lot throughout the Bible.
Us: But, why did you leave us with so many things unaddressed.
Jesus: I didn’t.
Us: You talked about everything?
Us: Well, it sure doesn’t seem like you did.
Jesus: That’s because you’re only interested if you think it’s about you.
Us: Who is it about then?
Because, It’s Not About You
Maybe we have it backwards. Maybe our agendas aren’t the most important thing. Perhaps, we need to join God in corporate mission and allow that activity, that action, that obedience to re-align, re-inform, our opinions. Sometimes, the Gospel demands that we act without thinking first. Sometimes, the right thing is to listen to the Holy Spirit and ignore our inner voice.
Albert Einstein warns about opinions, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”
We have to get into the social environment where Jesus is at the center.
Not an ideology.
Not an agenda.
Not a position.
When Paul wrote, “Don’t conform yourselves to the patterns of the world around you. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind [Ro 12:2, trans mine],” I imagine he would mean something like this today, “Don’t conform your actions to your opinions regardless of what blog or book helped shape them. Instead allow the power of the Holy Spirit to over rule your self talk and move you into alignment with the kind of God-Instruction that demands radical response.”
If we want to move forward, to see things change, then it’s time to embrace the perfection of Christ and the fallibility of one another.
Let’s let Christ be perfect, let organizations make mistakes and hold one another up in the midst of it. There’s too much at stake and things will change regardless of this week. There will be equal hiring policies eventually. That’s as close to a guarantee as I can give, but there are children who are sponsorless and whether they will receive the love, commitment and attention from Christians that hiring equality does, well that’s not guaranteed.
Not by a long shot.