Running toward evil

Firefighers ascend the World Trade Center on 9-11-01

Firefighers ascend the World Trade Center on 9-11-01

We’re far enough away from the celebration of the 15th annivesary of the destruction of the Twin Towers to reflect on some of its lessons. There is one image that inspires me most: First responders ran toward the evil, not away from it. As people descended the stairs of the World Trade Center, firefighters ascended, not unlike police who run toward the sound of gunfire, not away from it.

This is a useful metaphor of how the church at her best should operate. When we see systemic evil, should we not run toward it, by our presence carrying the light of the Gospel into the darkest of places? Yesterday I listened to a paper presented by a pastor. His topic was corruption in society and how the church can respond in ways to weaken corruption’s grip. In the African nation where this pastor lives, raising his voice too loudly can have consequences, but he has decided it is better to run toward evil with Gospel light than run away and let the darkness deepen.

But it’s not just Africa that needs light. As Americans, have we romaticized rural areas as “God’s country” while avoiding large cities as if they are under the curse? Now as the drug epidemic impacts small villages and towns, it’s only reluctantly that we’ve admitted the problem is not geography but the human heart. If we invite believers to run toward cities it’s not that rural areas don’t count. It’s only that cities have more people whose hearts need the transforming work of God’s grace. Cities set the moral pace for a nation at-large, so it makes sense that we as Christ followers would want to live there, showing another way to live, a better way, a loving way, a Kingdom of God way.

Too often when I’ve known I should run towards evil, like Jonah, I’ve run in the opposite direction. Yet God’s question to the prophet still rings in my ears: “Should I not be concerned”? Let me be like those 9-11 first responders, going in when all the world is going out.

 

 

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Changing the world the Wesleyan way

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John Wesley, 1703-91

John Wesley’s message was simple, just like Jesus’. Is ours?

He insisted in his 1746 The Principles of a Methodist Farther Explained:

I have again and again, with all the plainness I could, declared what our constant doctrines are; whereby we are distinguished only from Heathens, or nominal Christians; not from any that worship God in spirit and in truth. Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, — that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself (Works, 8:521-22, CCEL digital edition).

Jesus was once asked to sum up all the Law and the Prophets, the heart of the message of what Christians now call the Old Testament. He answered by saying that we should love God and love our neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). These are the two Great Commandments, and they are the very marrow of what it means to be a Christlike disciple.

What does the religion of loving God and others look like, particularly as worked-out socially? In Principles Farther Explained, Wesley continued:

This love we believe to be the medicine of life, the never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world, for all the miseries and vices of men…this religion we long to see established in the world, a religion of love, joy, and peace, having its seat in the heart, but every showing itself by its fruits, continually spring forth, not only in all innocence, (for love worketh no ill to his neighbor), but likewise in every kind of beneficence, spreading virtue and happiness all around it (p. 524).

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On the occasion of ANU’s 20th anniversary celebration

DSCN6669“Agents of Positive Change”

by Gregory Crofford, PhD

Coordinator for Education and Clergy Development

Africa Region Church of the Nazarene

Transformation is what Africa Nazarene University is all about. For the last four years, ANU has encouraged today’s graduates to resist unworthy habits and – as individuals of integrity – to make a difference in their chosen fields of work, their families, communities, Kenya, Africa, and beyond. Living as agents of positive change is at the heart of the teaching of Jesus Christ. He calls everyone who would follow him to be salt that preserves the earth, yeast that permeates society, and light that brightens dark places (Matthew 5:13-15, 13:33).

The Church of the Nazarene, Africa Nazarene University’s sponsoring denomination, is a holiness church that traces part of its heritage to 18th century English evangelist and theologian, John Wesley. Wesley believed that the people called Methodists were to be different, known for love of God and neighbor. He insisted that the hallmark of a true follower of Christ was their beneficial impact on others. Wesley and his associates inspired people to avoid the compromises that yield quick gains but ultimately damage self and others. Hymn-writer Charles Wesley agreed with his brother, John, that education was crucial for enabling the pursuit of nobler things, pleading: “Unite the two so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.”

Africa Nazarene University stands on the shoulders of spiritual giants like the Wesley brothers, bringing to the 21st century their warmhearted approach to the things of God, including education. Yet for the Wesleys and for ANU, faith is never to be quarantined to Sundays. The transformation that the Holy Spirit works in our heart and character is contagious, touching those around us every day of the week.

ANU graduates have become known for their academic proficiency, solid work ethic, and integrity. It is a reputation that is hard-won but easily damaged. May the 2014 graduates of African Nazarene University join the ranks of ANU alumni to be change agents – salt, yeast, and light – to positively impact our world.

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This article appeared in Issue 002/October 2014 of Aspire, a magazine published by Africa Nazarene University.