After my last E-pistle, in which I warned “Don’t go to the dark side,” I received many, many comments and replies. Several wrote to say that they agree with the three leaders I quoted in that message who are discouraged about our United Methodist Church. A few others wrote to say that being critical of our UMC does not mean they are “going over to the dark side” – and I certainly agree with that sentiment. The “dark side” of which I wrote is about giving in to cynicism and discouragement. Most wrote to offer me words of encouragement, stories about joys and good news from their churches, and affirmations that God is at work in the Indiana Conference. I appreciate all of those responses.
Let me clarify my own thinking: I believe that we who follow Christ are called to “live in the light of Christ” and not give in to the darkness of despair. All of us have times of discouragement, and all of us have seen the darkness of evil, injustice, sin, and death. To follow Christ means to encounter such darkness, even as Christ did, but then to choose to live in the light of Christ.
An example: I visited with a church leader who recently went through some tough times and disappointments. When I inquired about how he and his wife were handling all of that, he replied: “We believe that misery is a choice, and we do not choose to be miserable.” We make those choices all of the time, don’t we? Every little disappointment, unfairness, and heartache comes with the choice: will I give in to the “darkness” or will I choose to live in the Light? We often do not have a choice about which and when tough times come our way, but we do have a choice about our response to those tough times. We can give in to the darkness, or we can choose to live in the light.
Back to our United Methodist Church: I believe now is the time for all of us who both love our UMC and who have concerns about our UMC to live in the light of Christ. We do that by praying for our church, by being faithful ourselves, and by calling our UMC to the higher standards of Christ. Now is not the time to choose misery or cynicism or despair. Now is the time to choose love, healing, hope, and faith. Now is the time to live in the Light.