Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hoping Against Hope

"What a roller coaster ride this has been!"

I probably could write dozens of posts by beginning with that same phrase.  And perhaps one day I will.  But I just have one post in mind for today.

A 'favorite' line of Scripture of mine comes from the first part of this verse: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed..." (Romans 4:18, NIV)

The NRSV says "Hoping against hope, he believed..."

That's where I find myself today.  Truthfully, it is where I have found myself for much of my life.  I suspect you have found yourself in that place a time or two as well.

But specifically today I think of the ongoing situation at Northwest NazareneUniversity in particular, and in the Church of the Nazarene in general.

Yesterday the Board of Trustees released a response to the actions taken by both administration and faculty in recent days.  I am not going to hash out or dissect every last detail of that response.

If you've been reading, you know precisely what I think and how I feel.  And it is not as though I am alone in this.  There are thousands who are standing together including those much more highly respected and well known than I could ever hope to be. 

Passionate calls for justice are critical.  Those who would like us to stand by and do nothing are either naive, fearful, or would prefer the status quo. 

Reasoned responses of support are equally critical.  Those who would like us to simply accept whatever is said in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary are also either naive, fearful, or would prefer the status quo.

And hopeful words of faith are critical as well.  And it is to those that I turn today, because today, honestly, they are all I have.

In my life I have had many things take place that were not just, nor reasonable.  My family and I have suffered tremendously.  I would love to say those days are totally behind us, but the truth is, they are not.  Perhaps they never will be, because injustice and unreasonableness will never go away in full until Jesus sets all things fully right one day when the fullness of Gods Kingdom comes to this earth.

I have made mistakes, too, just to clarify.  I certainly have not lived a perfect life.  There are a good many things I could have done better in a good many places with a good many people.  My heart, I think, has mostly been in the right place.  When it hasn't been, where I have sinned, I have confessed to God and to others.  When it has been, where I have not sinned, I have confessed to others anyway and cried out to God for help.

As a prophetic voice, it pains me when God's people do not live out God's truth in God's ways.  It has certainly pained me personally, and it pains me in general.  But it is even worse when I see it causing pain to others, which I have witnessed so many times.

But even the prophet must submit to something greater than the truth:  Faith, hope, and love.  Consider the Apostle Paul's words in I Corinthians 13:

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

The Church, and the Church of the Nazarene in particular, must embrace the primacy of love.  God is love, says the Apostle John in one of his letters.

We will not always agree. 

But we must always love.

Unity is not about agreement (uniformity is...but not unity...).  Unity is about love.

Today, I am hoping against hope for unity.  I am hoping against hope for love. 

I am hoping against hope that the Board of Trustees will do what is in the best interest not of any individual, but of love.  It is "hope against hope" because we so rarely see love win (for the end, love always wins...) in these situations.  My family and I know and have experienced this firsthand, at points in the past and even to this day.

I am appreciative of the actions the Board of Trustees has taken.  I believe in the interest of love they need to take two additional steps: 

1.) Rescinding all layoffs until the review/investigation has been completed and actions have been recommended/taken,


2.) Radically shifting their proposed timelines to a much quicker timeframe, within reason and still allowing for the necessary work of a thorough review to be completed.

I can think of many times in my life and the lives of others where a suspension of a decision until a thorough review/investigation was completed, and a radical shifting of proposed timelines, would have been the most loving action that could have been taken.  And it would have made a huge difference in many lives.

As Jesus disciples, we are responsible to always take the most loving action we can.  When we don't, we are responsible to go back and fix it as far as it is possible and depends upon us.  Failure to do so is a failure to love.

Love never fails us.  Today, I am praying...and I am hoping against hope that we will not fail love. 

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