One of the great temptations in ministry is to avoid unpleasant topics. Success in that endeavor can save the minister a lot of heartache and in some cases, may even save the minister’s job. Surely the intentional running from the unpleasant is the easier path to take.
But it is not the Way of the Cross. Yes, wisdom, understanding and love of the other - regardless of whether the other is clearly wrong - these are distinguishing traits of an authentic Christian. But so too are courage and the prophetic telling of the truth, attributes noticeably absent in much of today’s popular Christianity.
The truth is, of course: In today’s world, it’s not always easy to possess either wisdom or understanding, much less be loving and welcoming to the stranger. Our world and life in general are far too complex. But that’s no excuse for failing to stand up and speak out on life-and-death issues, as - to give the prime example - as is the alarming rise in the suicide rate around our nation. More people are choosing to opt out of this life than ever before. Why?
One reasons sums up the rest: “the retreat from community.” In scriptural and historic terms we can define this retreat as the waning of good neighborliness.
About that there’s no ambiguity. Our lives are increasingly separate. There is less and less long-term bonding. People are more adrift. Family life is more unstable; jobs, more uncertain. It is not a good time to find oneself in a milieu that, way back in 1950, sociologist David Riesman called ‘The Lonely Crowd.”
Consequently, a guiding sense of purpose within us, heartfelt feelings of being accepted and personally valued in relationships - qualities intimately associated with meaningful existence, they are being lost for many. So, ought we to be surprised by the rising suicide rate?” No, it is inevitable.
This alarming increase is, however, not simply a social statistic. It sounds the alarm of tragedy, and tragedy of the first order, which, to avoid talking about, is a failure of the worst imaginable kind.
As never before in our lifetimes, dear friends in Christ, our arms and our hearts need to be extended and our message simple and clear, “Come Home, Ye Who Are Weary, Come Home.”