Now before you get too excited and think I have lost it, let me say what Amos said to Amaziah the priest of Bethel. “I am not a prophet nor am I the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14 NAS). However, God has helped me to gain some wisdom and discernment in my threescore and ten years of life. On the eve of a new year, my wondering mind is pondering what it might hold. Now throw in the fact that I try to be an astute observer of human life and human interaction, and my imagination goes wild. Because 2020 has been a challenge beyond anything we had thought or imagined, any prediction for 2021 sounds plausible. Here are my thoughts.
Having been involved in attempting to mediate conflict in the church for years, I can see racial and political tensions in our nation continuing to escalate into the new year. I see people talking about each other rather than with each other. We are not having a substantive dialogue about real issues; instead, we are attacking and calling each other names. We have become so entrenched in our ideologies that we are not able to see flaws in them. We need to be willing to ask, “Am I more a part of the problem or a part of the solution?”
In my July 28th article, I talked about levels of conflict. Culturally we are at least at Level IV: Fight/Flight with some people already exhibiting Level V: Intractable attitudes and actions. Stop and ask yourself, “What must happen for this trajectory to change?” “Where will the leadership come from that can bring our nation together?”
Let me suggest that it will not come from the political arena or the white house in Washington! It can only come from spiritual leadership derived from humble prayer times in the church house! We have to step up, step out, and become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. As hard as it will be, we must become the peacemakers.
To be true peacemakers, we will have to embrace and then live out the qualities Jesus described in the other Beatitudes:
3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven—Humility will need to replace the hubris that exists in some of us. Pride comes before every fall. We need to reaffirm that every human being is an image-bearer of the God we claim to serve. And therefore, someone for whom Jesus died.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted—When is the last time that tears came to your eyes as you listened to the news or heard about another tragic death? Have we become numbed by the daily barrage of violence, and the never-ending consequences caused by the decimation of the nuclear family?
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth— Hypocrite is the word used most often by those outside the church to describe us. Our holier than thou attitude does not sell well. We need to reclaim Paul’s spirit as he wrote Timothy, “And I thank Christ Jesus for our Lord who has enabled me because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Tim 1:12-15).
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled—This is the very heart of the gospel we seek to proclaim. Paul stated, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:16-19).
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy—Mercy, grace, and compassion would be three words that would describe how Jesus responded to the common man. He had harsh words for the religious elite because they were quick to criticize and cast out those who were struggling in life. The story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is more a story about the scribes and the Pharisees “being right the wrong way” than it is about a woman who knew that “wrong was wrong.” We need to be “right the right way!”
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God—Our motives and intentions do matter. However, our hearts are easily self-deceived. Are we willing to listen to others when they criticize our approach to the lostness around us? Do we rail at the darkness more than we weep and mourn for the devastation caused by sin?
We are not yet at the point of needing the last two, but the time is rapidly approaching.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
I must confess that none of us know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future! And we know what we must do to change the future that I see coming our way. Are we willing to do it?
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.