It was the renowned theologian Karl Barth who said that we should “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” There may be some caveats to that – but I believe that Barth was saying that our preaching should align with the truth of Scripture while at the same time being culturally relevant. (One of our Core Values at Madison is that we want to communicate with Biblical integrity and cultural relevance.)
As I zipped through the electronic version of The Columbus Dispatch today – a couple of things jumped off the pages. May I try the “Bible in one hand newspaper in the other” approach on a couple of issues?
The first: suicide. The paper reported two suicides within a week among survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida. Nearby was an article about the suicide of one of the parents of a victim of Sandy Hook.
The truth is – we do not have to read about this in the paper. Suicide has touched families in our church. It makes my chest tighten up just to think about suicide and the effect on those left behind. (It shatters hearts and leaves heads spinning.) Some statistics indicate that death by suicide has now edged out accidents as the number one cause of death among 15-24 year-olds.
Genesis 2:7 contains that amazing truth that God forms us from the dust of the earth, breathes into our nostrils the breath of life, and we become living beings. The Bible truth is that God is the giver of life. The Bible truth is that God should be the one who determines when our time on this earth is to conclude.
With that said, we must be “on mission” to help with the rampant hopelessness that contributes to suicide. We must be communicators of the fact that people are loved and valued by God and us. We must walk with people and help carry their burdens.
Just a few things I have learned along the way: The old idea that if people talk about suicide that they will not do it is just that: OLD – and wrong. Engage with people. If you think someone is thinking about suicide, ask them. (No, you are not giving them the idea. They are already considering it and we need to ask about it.) Be open to their thoughts and gracious in your responses. Help them find answers to their hurts. Determine if they have a plan and the means to carry out the plan. Get them help. Offer every resource you know of to help them. Ask them if you can talk with them on a daily basis about this. Solicit their promise to call you when they need to talk. Pray really hard. Use the National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255.
The second issue that jumped off the page was story of the local United Methodist congregations that are mounting a dissent to their denomination’s recent vote on LGBTQ issues. (They voted against ordaining LGBTQ clergy and sanctioning same-sex weddings.) The congregations identified in the article are signing a Statement of Dissent and defying the denominational hierarchy.
With the “Bible in one hand,” I could cite a lengthy list of verses. I won’t. I would say that the Scriptural position is summed up well in Romans 1:24-27. Summed up so well, in fact, that I really wonder what there is to vote on.
One of the authors of the Statement of Dissent actually said that the Bible does speak on these matters. Please beware of the danger of the explanation offered: “We use experience and reason and tradition to evolve, to let people know the context of 2,000 years ago is not the context of now.” Evolving away from God’s standard of absolute truth is never a good evolution and will bring disastrous consequences.
Our job on this issue is to be “on mission” and speak God’s truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) rather than accommodate the culture.
Tomorrow if you read the newspaper – keep your Bible open.