Farewell but never goodbye
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;” — Genesis 12:4a
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I thank God and our Lord Jesus Christ for the great blessing and privilege it has been to share in our Charleston Christian witness. This Holy City resonates with the strength of your faith. The Holy Spirit moves strongly in this place and He has lifted my life and writing through all of you. Now I crave your prayers.
My wife Kathleen and I feel God has called us to move from the Charleston area in order to be closer to our grandchildren. In doing so, we leave our home and the close community we’ve shared for over thirty years. We’ve forged so many deep friendships, shared so much prayer and seen so many miraculous happenings here in this wonderful place. We will miss you all greatly, but hope to return to visit once in a while.
It has been almost ten years since the Lord called me to write and speak about our vocations in business, education and in the family and church. He still calls me. I will continue my writing, especially for the Carolina Compass, but will be doing so long distance.
Meanwhile if I may reminisce, I believe the following are some of the most important thoughts the Lord has given me in these last years.
1. We are called to be holy, set apart by the Lord; to be His Church, His Body here on earth. The Lord seeks everyone: every single human, even a reprobate atheist like me, a prodigal son who ran from God and His love. Charleston and her atmosphere helped to focus that call until I finally opened my ears to the blessings of His word.
That holiness to which we are called makes every difference in our lives. Family becomes sacrament. Work intensifies into vocation. Learning blossoms with a desire to know and love the Lord more fully. The Ten Commandments for Business reminds us that for any of us in the business world, our work IS our mission field where we interact with those who have yet to meet Jesus. The workplace is a forty-hour-a-week opportunity to reap, for “the fields are already white for harvest.”
2. Our nation seems more divided every day. We feel alienated. We need to remember that nothing changes under the sun. We have been this way since the fall. Yet in our own time, when we held such hope for our progress, the evil one has sown discord, hatred and murder. So often we are discouraged by “news” which just reports Cain’s sin again, for we murder one another in every way imaginable (sometimes with our words on social media.)
In the midst of the chaos, we will find peace and hope only through Jesus Christ. When I was most discouraged, the Lord blessed me with Thomas Merton’s vision of man which still resonates in my soul. I expressed Merton’s vision this way in Alien Nation: Why We Can’t Talk and How We Heal: “Chosen for life, wrought in wonder, deeply loved, and meant for royal splendor, we shine like the sun.” If we all would cling to that idea and see others as God sees us, we will begin a great healing of this nation.
While working on Alien Nation, I had writer’s block for months. Finally, frustrated and lost, I surrendered my own will and prayed for God to give me the words. In a series of steps, the Lord revealed through others what His plan for our healing would be: Pray, Sow, Eat, Love. Each of these elements is critical for us to rebuild the faith we must find in one another — as people made in the image of God.
We need to Pray — constantly, without ceasing — for Christian revival in this nation and a rediscovery of the blessings which “One Nation under God” can bring.
We Christians are called to Sow. “Go out and make disciples of all nations.” We are to return hate with love, injury with blessing. The “other side” may not do so. We must. As Bishop Robert Barron recently stated, “Though the fierce atheists of today profess that they would like to eliminate religious speech and ideas, secretly they love to listen as people speak of God….[Be] ready for a good fight, and get some spiritual weapons in your hands.” So preach. Sow with love of truth and with truth in love.
Eat a meal together with those who you don’t know or whose ideas are opposed to yours. Welcome others into your homes and lives. I guarantee that by the end of the meal you will not have changed any minds, but you will have made a friend. One with whom you may vehemently disagree, but still a friend. Instead of demonstrations, let’s have family dinners, community cookouts, games and rocking chair chats on porches. These are the venues which bridge divisions and forge friendships.
Love one another. What a great cry of anger and grief we have witnessed in the last months. Yes, the riots have been organized and staged for the purpose of tearing apart the fabric of America. But so many of those young people burning and destroying were ripe to respond to the call to hate and destruction. Their alienation is a desperate cry reaching out for help and understanding.
We Christians were made for this. There is only one answer to hate: love. And, we are the children of the God of Love: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.” This God came down to be one of us. His love is greater than all the universe. It invades time to lift us into eternity. Jesus is the answer for all the hate we have witnessed; in fact for all the hate within the world. He promised us, “In this world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
And here is where I take my leave. The future is sure for us all. I am currently working on that witness of our loving God. God Came Down will share the good news which dries every tear and gladdens all hearts. This God we have come to know loves us! He came down to become one of us — a human being — in order to save us and to lift us up from our trials and our heartaches, from sin and death into a life of everlasting joy. The good news, indeed!
I pray God’s blessings upon you all, my brothers and sisters. You are in my prayers constantly — just as I crave your prayers for me and for my family.
Joseph Stringer writes and speaks on Christian issues in culture in the hope that we may realize transformation in our lives. Watch for his upcoming book, “God Came Down.” He prays that all who hear him or read his works might see through them to the One who has chosen us for life. Check out his blog at www.chosen4life.org