...I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. - 2 Timothy 4:1d-5
I can't speak for anyone else but I dread opening a paper or looking at the news on the internet or Facebook because there rarely seems to be anything good. Okay, some nice people have posted some lovely baby pictures, and there's one adorable little girl singing with her grandmother as they read a book together. Then the people who post pictures of kittens. May God bless them forever, because that's one thing that helps keep me sane. Give me kittens any day over politics. In fact, give me a kitten any day over almost anything. They do tend to brighten the day.
As if we didn't have enough anxiety running around before the election, it seems like the anxiety is growing because suddenly, some were so enthusiastic are suddenly beginning to wonder what they were voting for. I'm not saying everybody; I can't speak for everybody. I can speak for myself, and I have to say I do wonder what people who profess to be Christians and followers of Jesus can find to cancel out the seemingly contradictions of what Jesus teaches us. But it's nothing new. It happens periodically that, somewhere in the world, a leader goes a bit bonkers and believes too much of their own press, or thinks their truth is the only truth.
Paul wrote a letter to Timothy just before his own martyrdom. It seems to apply today every bit as much as it did in the world that Paul knew. I love the part about the itching ears. It seems such an accurate phrase for people who believe what they're told without actually discerning whether or not what they're told is actually true and factual, not alternative facts or patent lies.
Everyone wants to believe that they have the right idea. Everybody who proclaims to be a Christian, more often than not, has a specific view of what the Bible actually says and who said it. Those who believe that it's the inerrant word of God and that every word is literally true and factual present an entirely different case than someone who, to quote Karl Barth, "...Take the Bible too seriously to take it literally." In short, the Bible is too important to be just words that can be recited at will and ignored when it comes to actually living it.
We can't waste time in wringing our hands and expressing our anxiety. That's not going to help anyone, least of all ourselves. It's not going to help the world, and it's not going to help those most in need of good news. So now what?. Go back to early in the verse proclaim the message. Be persistent.
During World War II, almost every country that had the German shadow over it had its own groups of persistent people who worked to defeat those they saw as the enemy. They hid refugees, helped rescue those who were threatened with deportation to death camps, and countless lost and injured soldiers and pilots who they helped back to safety, all at a risk of their own lives. They didn't save everyone, but they did what they could and did it with persistence. If something didn't work one day, try again the next. Maybe that's something we can take from the past and use it to spread the gospel message. Resist by being persistent.
Be persistent. It's like a new watchword for the year. It's become a slogan that brings a number of groups together for common good which is giving people a voice and a measure of control over their own lives, without interference from the government, or maybe even the church, or maybe a single person. We need to be persistent. Following Christ takes persistence. It's not easy; never has been, never will be. But it's the job we have been given. It's an evangelical method message that we are to bring to the world and is how we are to live our lives, with persistence, with joy, and with less concern about sound doctrine than the lessons that Jesus taught us.
Time to get going on this folks. God loves the persistent, because so many of the people of the Bible exhibited persistence. Even though they didn't get their way immediately, or have their wishes and hopes fulfilled immediately, eventually things worked out. So now it's our turn.
Go thou and be persistent. God bless.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, February 12, 2017.