I heard a great news story one time that involved an animal rights' activist and a farmer. The farmer raised chickens for egg production, and the animal rights' group was protesting the condition chickens live in to produce eggs. It had become an entangled mess of lobbying, courts, and such. Until one day, the farmer called the animal rights' head and asked, "Can we talk?" (The story was on NPR, so it isn't one that is made up.)
Between the two, a logical solution was developed, and a relationship of sorts began. The relationship was one of respect. One was a matter of economics - the size of the crate for the chicken and the number of chickens in the coup with the mechanisms to feed, water, and gather eggs. The other was a matter of conditions considered deplorable - the size of the crate for the chicken. These two people were not from the same world. Their worlds were different and vast. And yet, through a relationship, they were able to forge a solution acceptable to both and the groups they represented.
We talk about being "of the church" in a world that is clearly less and less sympathetic, even in a nation founded on religious freedoms, to "the church." The beliefs expressed by the church are placed in an "old world" category, not enlightened by the knowledge of the day. For those who have lived over the past four to five decades, areas of life we once considered common are being hedged in. Unfortunately, it is tempting to withdraw from society, to talk at society about its condition, and to gather only with like-minded people. The question is, how does our light shine when we do?
In speaking of fatherhood last Sunday, we noted that the scripture is clear on the role of men, fathers, in the lives of the family and children, yet we looked at the numbers of single-parent households where there is no father or minimal father (40% across the board now according to Pew). How does the church speak the truth in love to society that now ignores that truth (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6:4, and Hebrews 12)?
We learn from the farmer and the activist. We begin by having a conversation. Not one of scorn for the other, but a conversation intended to develop a relationship. A "Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman" conversation (John 4) where he does not condemn, but listens and informs.
We pray that as opportunities in this world come to us, we seize them and use them to develop relationships. We pray the Spirit move us to speak the truth in love and that we share in the gospel message of love, forgiveness, and mercy and grace. We pray that we go out into the world and not shrink from it, so that Christ's light may shine.
Hope Men's Ministry