"I feel bad for those who are homeless but what can I do about that? There are so many people who are hungry anyway, where would one begin? Besides, all politicians are crooks so why even bother getting involved?"
When we hear questions or statements like these we often think to ourselves, what is the use? Why bother since there is little that we can do that would have lasting effects? We watch the news reports of more and more people being laid off, of greater and greater demand being put on food banks and social services, and we begin feeling guilty that we should do more, but what? How? We know there are needs but smarter people than us have not been able to figure this out so why do we think we ever could?
One of my favorite literary finds (outside of the bible, of course) was not a romance novel or murder mystery, but a challenge. When I was in a soul-searching period of my own, trying to find a voice and expression for my faith, I was given an amazing book to read called, Beyond Guilt and Powerlessness by George S. Johnson. Looking back it may not have been the book itself as it was the challenge that lay there for me in those pages. We all have questions and run into the same road blocks when confronted with the realities of suffering and hunger in our world. We may feel guilty that we have had things so good and others have not. Or we feel we are in no real position to do anything about it because we are just one and the problems we face are vast, often involving international complexities and social economic issues. What on earth could we ever do?
The remarkable thing is what God has done. You see, God gave us faith, and the beauty of something like faith is that it is not bound by such petty and weak reactions as guilt and powerlessness. We might be bound up or frozen by them, but not faith. Faith is a living, breathing, thing that draws strength from a challenge.
When we face a difficult struggle or challenge in life, people often tell us it will “build character.” Well, that is a misguided lie. A struggle does not build character; a struggle only wears one down or out. What builds character is when we turn to our faith in those difficult times to get us through, to survive the day. Putting our faith into action is when we begin to build character and deepen our relationship with God.
The author of this book claimed that there is “good guilt” and “bad guilt.” Bad guilt is simply that which tears us down and points out to us how we have failed. Good guilt is that which wakes us up out of our paralysis and shows us there is something we can do. Good guilt moves us to react to our social responsibility as a member of the body of Christ. It is like electric shock paddles to our Christian calling. Theologians would call that the “law” part of the “law and gospel” in scripture. Each is an equal component that makes up the essence of God’s grace.
Over the next several months we will be lifting up Acts of Service and Justice as a congregation as the next highlighted Element of a Living Faith. Some have questioned what that all entails but that is your challenge to discover. What is God calling you to do and who is God calling you to take a stand for? To have a Living Faith is to engage those difficult situations in life with the one thing built specifically to cure them, Christ. I invite you; no I challenge you, take a stand, make a move, but do it, live out your faith. In so doing you will grow a little more as an active follower of Christ and move so far beyond guilt and powerlessness that you will have forgotten what they were!
Go in Peace, live lives of service and justice.