Recently I was a counselor at a church camp for high schoolers. Amid the games, bible studies, worships and dancing to silly songs, we spent some time discussing the world around us. It’s no secret that our society is full of both good and bad things. One critique of the constant news cycle is that there is very little air time given to those stories that show the best that humanity has to offer. Day after day it seems as if we are bombarded with the worst that humanity has to offer.
At camp, we began to discuss and dissect the problems of the world. First, we do not give teenagers enough credit. While it is easy to blame them for the decline of the church or that they are too absorbed with social media and their phones, they see a lot, feel a lot and dream a lot. I got to here teens from all over the North/East Texas area voice the issues they were seeing they were concerned with or that was facing them whether it was poverty, homelessness, bullying, sex trafficking, intolerance or racism there was something that caused their heart to hurt so much.
This generation has a vastly different outlook on the world than any other generation in human history. Not only do they have access to more information than ever before, they also want to make sure this world is not the same place it was when they arrived. There is a drive, a desire, a need to change the world and change it for the better. Most of the teens today do not get caught up in labels of certain groups of people rather they see everyone on equal footing; they want to make a mark and make it now, not when they are 38 with three children. All of this will take place with or without the church’s help.
In the midst of all that is going on it can be overwhelming when surveying the world and its multi-leveled complex issues and problems, the light of hope that we all carry can begin to be surrounded by an inescapable darkness.
The darkness we spoke of were the places where our joy and our love have been robbed of us, had been drained from our souls; those places where the problems of the world and the available resources were just too great. All that what was left was a gnawing emptiness of nothing… just darkness.
They felt as if this great big world was too much and their contribution albeit admirable and correct was never going to be enough. They have hopes and dreams but to what end? They see the problems, they can give voice to it, but what can one person do? The world is not that very good place God deemed it to be in Genesis 1.
In the midst of all of this, we started camp in the wake of Orlando, in the shadow of darkness and death, in the shadow of the human condition. No matter what box you check come November this is not a political issue, it’s a religious one and I don’t mean the narrative of Islam vs. Christianity.
49 people, 49 children of God, 49 people who were fearfully and wonderfully made, 49 people with Image of God imprinted on them and the divine spark lit within their souls, 49 people with loved ones and friends and family all taken away in an instant and the church should not be silent with our grief.
The youth gathered for a prayer vigil and shared their hurt and confusion; we prayed for light breakthrough the darkness.
Darkness runs deep, darkness covers and invades and darkness doesn’t allow anything else to come in; darkness stinks… we can chalk it up humans being humans, but its more than that.
Throughout the week, we came to the conclusion that the light of God’s love and mercy would always trump the darkness of hatred and conflict. The divine spark that is gifted to all of the humanity can push back the light and expose the goodness of God’s fullness and grace. Where the world says it dark, God’s infinite mercy and grace is there to reclaim it.
If they coming of Christ means anything it means we are not the same and thus the world cannot be the same.
The church should not a carbon copy of the social barriers and artificial lines drawn in the word. If the church’s response to the gospel is to uphold lines or theologies that cause greater strife and division then we have missed the point of the gospel.
Thomas Merton once said, "Our job [as Christians] is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy."
Christ did not come to keep the status quo; Christ came so that the people who follow him will turn the world upside in a radical way.
I used to worry about the future of the church but if we follow the example of the high schoolers I spent the week with, the church will be able to do things beyond our wildest dreams. Let them shine the light of God, now and always.