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Needing to be Saved

by The Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Sparks, Community Church (United Church of Christ), California City, CA.

Ronald-SparksRecently, The Barna Group published its study entitled: “Unchristian.” It is a difficult study to read but it informs us of the reasons why young people between the ages of 16-25 are leaving the organized church. The short analysis is that they view us as having “missed the mark” on so many of the issues and concerns that they have.

I thought about that statement and remembered that it was the thought that The Apostle Paul had in mind when he penned these words to The Church in Rome (Romans 3:23): “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Paul utilizes a Greek Word (hamartano) here. It refers back to the archery fields of Rome. In translation it means: “to miss the mark” or “to fail to hit the bulls-eye.”  I would suggest that this is what has transpired in the church. Let me elaborate.

We have become so involved in a model of punitive and pernicious preaching and practice that we are in danger of becoming insipid. We have been so busy trying to point out and remove the splinter in other people’s eyes that we have neglected to see and remove the 2×4 in our own eye. We need to call ourselves to repentance as well as the world.

When the church, born out of the womb of oppression and persecution becomes an oppressor and persecutor, we are in need of being saved.

When we deny to others the same human and civil rights we desire for ourselves, we are in need of being saved.

When we endeavor to impact and influence the human condition by enacting laws rather than by changing hearts. When we seek to establish a Sectarian Theocracy rather than strengthening and supporting a Pluralistic Democracy, we are in need of being saved.

When we marginalize and minimalize people on the basis of race, residence, culture, creed, gender identity, sexual orientation, sacred and social status, we are in need of being saved.

When a climate and condition of animosity and hate is created by our words, and others act on those words to mar, maim and murder others, we are in need of being saved. When we take no responsibility or culpability for creating such situations, we are in need of being saved.

When we decline to reach out to those who are poor, hungry, homeless, sick, unloved and unlovely and our compassion and caring is predicated on conditional, rather than unconditional, love, we are in need of being saved.

When we continue to both interpret and inculcate scripture through ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry rather than through thousands of years of insight, enlightenment, scholarship and clinical understandings, we are in need of being saved.

When we continue to create exclusive conclaves rather than inclusive communities, we are in need of being saved. When we create barriers of theology, doctrine, dogma and creed which prevent us from building bridges of communication and cooperation, we are in need of being saved.

When we speak in hypocritical and self-righteous platitudes rather than with a Prophetic Voice, we are in need of being saved.

When we “Talk the Walk and refuse to Walk the Talk” and proclaim and practice what is inconsistent with and incongruous to the message and mission of The One we say we believe in, follow and serve, we are in need of being saved.

When we proclaim to be the interpreters and instigators of love, mercy and justice and speak and act in unloving, unmerciful and unjust ways, we are in need of being saved.

Paul stated in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of our sin is death.” Perhaps the way for us to cease “missing the mark” is to both proclaim and practice a formula which exists in every faith journey in the form of “The Golden Rule.”  And to live out Micah’s clarion call “to love mercy, to do justice (not just vocalize it) and to walk humbly with God.”

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