This morning I was up at 3:16! As I sat up in bed looking at the clock, I briefly wondered why I was so alert, until I realized that my cell phone was ringing.
It was an 800 number which I quickly silenced for my wife’s sake, assuming it to be a misguided mass marketer. Seconds later the home phone rang, it was ADT Home Security reporting a false alarm at another residence for which I serve as back up. The drive over to the home to meet the local police of course ended my night.
Upon my return, rather than crawl back into bed, I decided to use the gift of a couple extra hours of silence for my own benefit. I am always infatuated with the possibility of extended time alone with the Lord. I don’t mean a time to read a good book or even study scriptures, though often that does comprise the bulk of my early morning ritual.
This January has become a special time for re-examining my life, removing distractions and in some humble but sincere way (lest you write me off as arrogant) paralleling my life impact with others, whom I know to have made a lasting difference. Three such men came to mind: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr and Dietrich Bonheoffer.
Lincoln perhaps because of the recent movie release, even though I had read Team of Rivals earlier last year after a difficult time politically. This man was a master at political influence and sovereignly used by God;though his earliest motives may have been more nationalistic than spiritual. He unlike many a leader before him, righted the wrongs of slavery, salvaged this great Union and provided another example of selfless service in the face of great opposition. Of course, like the other two mentioned above, it would cost him his life; these are the men that evil most often targets.
Decades later, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King,Jr. picked up the torch of Lincoln and the very the cause of Christ Himself: to free men, women and children held by the chains of injustice. MLK,Jr.’s work is now rightfully held in infamy; celebrated annually, in fact next week.
The third man, Bonheoffer, a preacher as well, is virtually unknown outside the circle of certain theologians or twentieth century historians. Hanged at the young age of 39, after being suspect by Hitler and the Third Reich of conspiracy to assassinate their German tyrant. He found himself without support by nominal clergy when he first began to speak out, but those who remained true to the tenants of Luther, later to be founders of The Confessional Church, sent him to America for his own protection. He soon returned. “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.”
I cannot help but believe that we are at a similar place in America. Germany’s pastorate had been corrupted by government influence, the national economy was reeling, war was escalating, and their youth were disenchanted. These are the times when evil triumphs, especially when good men (or women) do little.
Political activism has its place, but as is apparent today, that can only move people so far before extremes emerge whether left or right; gridlock or stalemate eventually ensues. Capitalism that has gone to seed, producing a growing wage gap and eroding middle class, moving us swiftly toward a time when civil unrest could suddenly become violent. Big government with spineless leadership is a seed bed for socialism. Violence in our schools has now led to further political polarization, with some buying up guns out of fear that Second Amendments rights will eventually be denied (history justifies them); while others gather at gun shows in hope of stronger gun laws (a sincere sense of concern and compassion for children compels them); neither am I defending.
When men of God speak out, they are shouted down as overly evangelical or if social justice be their cry, branded as liberals; often with the rhetoric coming from among their peers!
Still yet were Bonheoffer alive, he would certainly reiterate: “The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.” The Cost of Discipleship
It is in times like these that the thought of being used by God, similarly as these three men, is well worth the weariness of what some would call mere insomnia.