Thursday, August 19, 2010


Karl Barth was a predominant theologian of the early and mid-twentieth century. He opened wide the doors for new thinking as we consider the concept of God and our relationship with him. One of his notions was that in order to respond to God’s word in this world of ours, we must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The application of our faith comes within the context of where, how, and what our living situation is all about.

When we read scripture, we can understand why Karl Barth said that. Just follow Jesus. His faith in God was unquestioned. However, Jesus’ faith was not demonstrated by high theological concepts, but how he lived his life during his ministry on this earth. He lived among the people. He taught among the people. His parable and responses to comments by those with whom he conversed were filled with the experiences such people faced during the time Jesus was there.

So, I grabbed today’s paper and I am listing below some of the topics, locally and nationally, that are addressed today. The question is, as followers of Jesus, how would we respond to these issues using our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, as a catalyst for response?

Public Building Authority – Johnson City has a Public Building Authority (PBA) that has come under scrutiny lately because of potential land swap deals. The PBA controls the use of Millennium Centre. The Centre has experienced deficits in the past. It has land within its acreage that could be sold to offset the deficit. According to the article, the PBA faces a murky future. So, where is God in all this? Is this something we need to consider as followers of Christ? Is there a stewardship issue here that Christians need to take into consideration? Is the PBA a functioning organization that brings responsible leadership to the community that brings with it appropriate accountability?

A Muslim Center - The Johnson City Press’ front page story’s headline is “Good Neighbors.” The article presents the issue of a mosque built in 2008 for Muslim worshippers. While it talks about the success of open-minded people here in Johnson City, it is a referral to the difficulties in Murfreesboro as Muslims attempt to build a center there. Of course, the heated issue nationally is the Muslin center that is proposed to be built near Ground Zero where the World Trade Towers were destroyed. What would Jesus’ position be? First of all, scripture says that he came to minister to the lost people of Israel. He did realize that his ministry was also to the Gentiles, as suggested by his encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman. In scripture we see that Jesus is compassionate to all people, except for those who are self-righteous. Two of Jesus’ basic tenets were that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Jesus also said that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. However, are we demonstrating these principles to those who have been affected by the destruction of the towers by permitting the Muslim center to be built? Furthermore, what is our understanding of freedom of religion under the constitution? Where is God in all this, and are our thoughts and feelings in sync with Jesus call to discipleship?

BP Corporate Image – In the business section of the Johnson City Press, an article reports that the BP image is recovering from the oil spill, but it is still low. Again, where is God in all this? What do we think about it and where do we “land” with our thoughts and feelings. Is there a need for forgiveness and reconciliation to a corporate entity? Has there been a demonstration of repentance by the corporation, if such is required? We all realize that a major issue of the oil spill is the damage to the ecology and creation, which God has given to us to protect and of which we are called to be stewards. Is the corporation, along with the issue of the environment, so big that we cannot wrap ourselves around it and so all we can do is ignore it? Or, do we show continued disapproval by boycotting those places where we know BP products are sold?

These are just three issues that were presented in the Johnson City Press on August 19, 2010. What is our responsibility as Christians? What does God call us to think about, feel, and to do? This is what Karl Barth was talking about. This is what we are about as Christians. While in many situations, we are either helpless or it is beyond our capability to be responsive, we can discuss, consider, and pray about the issues of everyday life that affect us and our neighbor.

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