As the New Year approached, I became more and more anxious that I had no ideas for a new blog post. Every blog that I follow seemed to have a “Year in Review” kind of post, but I just… couldn’t…. do it.
2014 was a rough year for a lot of people, both in my small circle and in the larger circle of our nation and world. I felt that if I wrote a New Year’s blog post, it was going to be a lament for 2014. When I first opened this site – on January 1, 2014 – my first post was titled “The Year of the Church Triumphant.” My prayer was that 2014 would be the year that we would turn it all around, the year that Christianity would become a positive, relevant force in the public sphere. I hoped that 2014 would be the year that all the Sarah Palins, Pat Robertsons and Ken Hamms of the world would find Jesus, and start doing good things in His name, rather than perpetuating evil and oppression and calling it “good.”
Thank God I didn’t decide to hold my breath while I was waiting for it.
Throughout 2014, I responded to situations that were coming out of the news on this blog. I wrote about Hobby Lobby, I wrote about Ferguson, I wrote about Eric Garner. I wrote about all the awfulness that was happening, and I desperately waited for some kind of massive Christian presence to match the volume of the hypocrites.
I was waiting for the wrong thing.
In the midst of all the awfulness, there was a legitimate, strong movement of people who were being Jesus (and not just in His name) that I was missing. I fell victim to the very thing that I feel has kept the rest of the world from hearing the Gospel – the shouts of those who would use the name of Jesus to advance their own power and prestige. I was so intent on out-shouting those voices, that I forgot to look and listen to the faithful remnant that were quietly, humbly doing the work of the Kingdom in the midst of the darkness.
I don’t think that we deserve awards or pats on the back for being faithful to the Gospel, but I think that it’s important for people like me – people who have accepted a role of “the voice crying in the wilderness” – to acknowledge that the Church has been triumphant in a lot of small, yet meaningful, ways.
In the midst of a humanitarian crisis at the border, there were a number of charities – both Christian and other-than-Christian – who brought much needed food, water, clothing, toys and compassion to children and families who had traveled a long and dangerous road. The number of charitable workers was smaller than the number of people waving signs and screaming hate at those same refugees – but those who were there to help were far more important, and far more valuable, than those who were there to hurt.
In the midst of ongoing protests surrounding police actions in Ferguson, there was a small number of clergy and other people of peace. These peacemakers were a small part of the often angry mob that cried for justice, a smaller force than the militarized police presence that often met the protesters with force, but they were willing to stand between the two groups and pray for justice and peace. This place between the two extremes often put them in the way of rubber bullets and tear gas, but they stood there anyway.
In the midst of an Ebola scare, there were religious and non-religious relief organizations that responded to the cases in America and beyond. More than that, the presence of the fatal disease on our shores highlighted the great work that those same organizations have been doing the whole time to combat the epidemic in places where there is little in the way of proper medicine and health care.
In the midst of ongoing hatred and lies concerning the LGBTQ community, there were still churches and Christian writers who opened their doors and their hearts to an oppressed and excluded group of people. They were far outnumbered by the voices who shouted for condemnation and judgement, but they were still there. There were still ministers willing to risk the wrath of their denominations in order to perform same-sex marriages. There were still churches willing to be excommunicated from their denominations to become welcoming to all.
In the midst of a national shouting match about the torture of prisoners, there were still Christians who joined non-Christian peacemakers in protesting the death penalty. There were still Christians who visited prisons, who ministered to those who were incarcerated.
There were people and organizations serving food to the hungry all year long.
There were people and organizations giving clothes to people without all year long.
There were people and organizations visiting the sick.
And even while some with untold wealth were using that wealth to gain even more, there were more who have little who were giving to those who had less.
I missed so much of this during 2014, because I was so concerned with all that was going wrong. And while it is important to be concerned with injustice, while it is vital to be a loud and insistent voice for the oppressed, it is just as important to stop and take note of the good that is happening behind the injustice, to find the hope in the midst of the darkness.
The faithful remnant might never have the numbers or the volume of the Church of Empire, but what that remnant does is far more important, far more lasting. When Jesus told us to go out and make disciples, He was telling us to go out and convince people – sometimes with our voices, but more often with our actions – that His Way was the Way of Life. And, when we commit ourselves to this quiet kind of good, we convince more people than a street preacher with a megaphone or a politician with a platform ever could.
Let’s keep committing ourselves to this quiet kind of good in 2015. We’ll still engage in the battles and the shouting matches from time to time – but only in between the moments when we’re truly changing the world one life at a time.