Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Right Side of History

Photo by Robert Barker

On September 20 I enjoyed the great privelege of hearing Dr. Gardner C. Taylor preach before a small crowd of Baptist ministers. Dr. Taylor is a very famous preacher and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifelong work in the pulpit and in the Civil Rights Movement. For us preacher geeks and wanna-be preacher geeks being there was equivalent to attending a private concert by someone like Willie Nelson. Without the crazy history and pigtails.

The Baptists who gathered to hear Dr. Taylor have been through a lot. As there is in a lot of groups and clubs, there is often a lot of bickering in Baptist churches about who should be in and who should be left out of the Baptist world. Just like teenagers, adults can be pretty mean-spirited when trying to keep certain people outside the fold. When kids do this it is called be cliquish or catty; when adults do it it is called politics.

Dr. Taylor said that when all things are said and done (I suppose this means when Jesus comes back to make things right) he thinks those who did not close the door in the face of those outside will be found on the right side of history. In other words, Jesus is going to reward those who chose to reach out to the less cool, less funny, less desirable, and even less religious.

Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to" (Matthew 23:13,14). Apparently Jesus thought we that when we try to discern who is in and who is out of God's kingdom we run the risk of jeopardizing our own membership.

As you walk the halls this next month take a little time to pause. Who is it that needs you to say yes, rather than no, to? Yes I will be your friend. Yes I will walk with you into God's kingdom. Who is it that needs you to stand with them on the right side of history?

-The above essay will be included in the October 2005 Lowe's Grove newsletter-