I haven’t written an end of year reflection in a couple of years. But was we approach the new year in just a matter of hours, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and also some personal updates.
The last time I wrote a reflection was the end of 2020, months into a pandemic and increasing divisive heat. At that time, here was an observation;
If there is one thing I can say about this year, it’s been one of exposure of hearts and where our loyalties really lie. I say this primarily of the Christian whose first loyalty should be to Christ and his kingdom with loose commitments to the social and political factions of this age. But this year with all that’s happened–from COVID, more police shootings of unarmed black people, lockdowns, and a bizarre election cycle–has pulled back whatever veneer resided over socio-political orientations we tried to mask with our Christian presentation. Not to mention the tensions that have ramped up in the church over the issue of Critical Race Theory that has created more divisions. That’s why I say it’s the year that got us. It exposed us. It showed what we truly valued. We can no longer hide.
Since this time, I have observed that exposure has provoked more of a camp settling and less persuasion efforts on why so and so or such a such position is wrong. What do I mean by that? It seems that people, professing Christians in particular, have resigned to their perspective camps. There is less persuasion with an interest towards Christian unity and more of a huddling together around respective socio-political agendas. And that goes for issues on the left AND the right. And while that may make for some superficial peace, I’m not sure it’s a good thing.
But I’ve also been struck by how the events of recent years have sent so many professing believers into a trajectory away from scriptural and historic orthodoxy. I’m talking those who were grounded in the faith, adhered to Scripture, had no issues with fellowshipping with those who didn’t share the same perspective on socio-political matters, held the gospel high and central. But it seems commitments to social agendas and/or political frameworks, spawned by the events and broader conversations over the past 5-6 years, have unmoored that central grounding. This has been aggravated by the “deconstruction movement” that became quite prominent this past year and provoked a fashionable questioning of Christian paradigms that were ensnared by cultural captivity. Now it’s good to examine where that might happen and where we are allowing unfaithful renderings for cultural comfort. The problem comes when the deconstruction itself is motivated by another kind of cultural captivity. To be honest, it seemed there was quite a bit of that going on.
Nonetheless, it’s been a bit sobering and unnerving to watch professing believers veer off a path into either syncretism or flat out unbelief. Yes, even those who still claim Christianity but decide to do their own thing, their own way. The impulse would be to castigate those who follow such a path, especially where early signs were detected. It’s easy to point fingers with “I told you so.” But then I think hey that could me. What has kept me from following such a path, even to the point of being labeled and misunderstood? There by the grace of God. Period. There is no boast in any steadfastness, only boast in the Lord.
I generally shy away from predictions for the new year. But some directions seem awfully clear: moral compass of society will continue to move away from biblical ethics. The LGBTQ+ agenda will continue to become more normalized with full agreement expected. Standing on scripturally informed Christian paradigms will garner more misunderstanding and opposition. Addressing racial justice will continue to comingle with LGBTQ+ advocacy. I wish I were wrong but I think the year ahead will show where these issues stand.
I think that should create an imperative for Christians to get more grounded in the basics of Christian faith and practice unhitched from social and political agendas that are gripping the church. We need to stand firm in Christ’s other worldly kingdom with a commitment to being the new creation he has called us to be. That doesn’t mean silence on moral issues, a lack of cultural engagement or a detachment from addressing issues of justice. But it does mean to discern how we huddle. We do well to remember that worldly pulls on the flesh are always at work, yes even those with a seemingly good collective agenda (consider James 1:14-15). The church needs to be the church, not a puppet for political or social causes, is my take.
On a personal note, I’m hoping to write more on this blog though it may just be some brief reflections. My position as Executive Director at the nonprofit I’ve been managing for the past few years consumes quite a bit of my mental capacity, not to mention time. But it’s been quite the rewarding experience as the organization has moved forward in a positive and impactful direction. I had a very productive 2022, adding two new events and keeping the organization afloat. I wrote some about what I do here. There is something about honoring people’s ethnic and cultural heritages that makes them seen and valued. My hope is to do even more in 2023.
Also, the Family Discussion podcast continues with Rev. Marcos Ortega. You can check it out on iTunes or Podbean. We recently started season 5 and took a detour from the walk through applied systematic theology on the issues of our day well, to actually discussing the issues of our day. Check it out if you get a chance!
Well, that’s it. I’m off to enjoy the remaining hours of 2022. Contrary to those “prophets” who speak with confidence about what the Lord will do, the fact is we really don’t know. But we can count on him being faithful and working out all things for his good. Let’s continue to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and remain committed to him, first and foremost.