Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Had a chance to visit the Bonhoeffer house in Berlin. Still so moved by the impact of his relatively short life. And how those who were imprisoned with him said that he possessed an unrelenting joy, even in the midst of abject horror. We don’t have to walk around as if the world is falling apart at the seams–even when it is–because we belong to a different world, a higher and better kingdom that is characterized by unspeakable joy.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The appearance of good.

“There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscience, so apparently moral…But I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous…more extravagant and bright. We are…raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.”

Annie Dillard

We often invoke Scripture to admonish others to avoid the appearance of evil.  We seldom apply the same rebuke when it comes to avoiding the appearance of good.

On second thought.

Christians often bemoan our country’s slide into immorality.  Judge Robert Bork called it Slouching Toward Gomorrah.  I think that’s an apt description.  We didn’t get to where we are because of those who aggressively pursued evil; we are here because enough of us shrugged our shoulders at the call to pursue the good.

Next week I’ll be meeting with someone from a group that actively promotes population control.  They’re afraid that unless we all pitch in to stop babies from being born, we face an imminent anthropogenic global catastrophe.  I don’t really know what they think will happen, except that it must be extremely bad.

History tells us they are extremely wrong.

No nation that has had population control imposed on it – whether intentional or through external events – has survived.  Ever.

Still, for the better part of three decades the western evangelical church bought the lie that the responsible thing to do is keep reproduction at or below the statistical replacement rate of 2.1 offspring per family.  Christians did not (generally) endorse the feminist agenda or insist on abortion rights; they just favored adding over multiplying.

And now of course we find ourselves in precisely the kind of dilemma that comes from not having had enough babies in that we no longer have a vibrant workforce or a robust military without which you can’t hang on to your country.

There is a breach in the wall.  We are vulnerable – not so much because we were overtly wicked, but because we were not overtly good.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

This is a basic maxim of warfare, whether seen or unseen.  Victory is not measured by eradicating evil but by building or rebuidling the good.  That’s why the period of reconstruction is more important than the battle itself – a lesson that has escaped us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ezekiel 22:30 says that God looked for someone who would 1) rebuild the wall and 2) stand in the breach.  Just standing in the gap and perpetually fighting the onslaught of the enemy is exhausting and ultimately a guarantee of defeat.  Wars of attrition don’t require brilliant military strategy – your opponent just waits until you wear yourself out.

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Drop your sword for a minute and take inventory.  What moves your heart?  Your passion is probably either a resource for the good or a response to something that is broken…or both.  I have a friend who heard a message about human sex trafficking at her church and couldn’t get the image of those young, hurting girls out of her mind.  She is also a trained and gifted life coach with a passion to help people find the courage to walk out their God-given design.  As she cried out to God asking Him to JUST DO SOMETHING to stop the trafficking trade, He turned her question around: “Why don’t YOU do something?”  She did.  You can read her story here.

So take a look around.  Where are the vulnerable places in your life, your family, your community or your nation that really get to you?  Don’t be afraid if the breach looks too big.  Now ask what raw materials you have at your disposal – and don’t be afraif if the pile looks too small.  In fact, if your supply is exactly enough to close the gap, you may want to consider that your problem is too small, which I’m sure is just what you wanted to hear.

The point is not for you to bury the talent by laboring to do only those things you are perfectly comfortable doing with your existing resources.  The church has been there and done that, ad nauseum.  I’ve got a drawer full of t-shirts to prove it.

It’s time to kick it up a notch.  Instead of addressing the obvious breach that’s right in front of you, look out on the horizon to the gap that really stirs something up inside.  The one that might even shake you to the core.  Yes, that one.

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My people…are skilled at doing evil, but they don’t know how to do good.  Jeremiah 4:22

Standing in the gap.

When I was about ten years old, my dad and I went hiking in the mountains of Bavaria.  We started out in a beautiful meadow, but the terrain became more rocky and treacherous the higher we climbed.  At one point we had to cross a ravine.  I was too scared to jump over, so my dad lowered me into the chasm while he stepped over to the other side where he would pull me out.  Right at that moment, a climber far above us loosened a large rock, which came hurling down the mountain straight at me.  I was stuck in the ravine and couldn’t get out of the way.  Somehow my dad was able to get his hands around the rock and slow it down enough to keep it from crushing me.  I’m convinced my father saved my life that day.  He stood in the gap between me and that rock.

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I believe there is still time to rebuild the wall of righteousness and restore the deficit of character that has bankrupted our nation.  It won’t be easy.  Many people will watch the collapse of the wall on YouTube and chalk it up to another sign of the End Times.  They are standing by for the Rapture.  Restoring the wall would only serve to hinder the Day.

Well-meaning others will form committees, make posters and tweet about the Build A Better Wall Initiative. They remind you that after the service they will be standing around to collect donations of Legos and Crazy Glue.

Still others have already been to the wall.  They started under cover of darkness, chipping away one brick at a time and are now, in the afternoon sun, standing back to revere their handiwork.

Finally there are those who will be real about the extent and location of the damage and about their part in the collapse.   They will hike to the edge of the city – well beyond safety and way past comfort – all the way to where the wall was.

Then they will position themselves in the ruins, in the empty space where they are most vulnerable.  Where they are exposed to the elements and the enemy. They will stand in the gap between mercy and judgment and they will start building.  The work will be hard and dirty and bloody, but they will not stand down.

For as long as the breach remains, they will be the wall.  Who will you be?

But now O God, strengthen my hands.  Nehemiah 6:9