When I was a kid, I used to watch my Mom try to thread a needle. Invariably, after futile attempts, she'd hand the needle and thread to me, for my young eyes to lace. My youthful, flexible lenses (non-presbyopic, for you Optometrists) would quickly spot the target, inserting the thread through the eyehole, despite any overhanging threadfuzz that sought to thwart me.
Today, our culture isn't interested in threading the needle on Race as much as stabbing one another with the needle.
Culture is ablaze with vitriolic venom and cacophonies of accusatory condemnation. Sadly, I'm talking about fellow followers of Jesus Christ. What will we do? There is an old saying:
"Let's keep the main thing, the main thing."
Sound advice. It reminds us to keep our focus on what is truly important, when other things seem code-red urgent.
I once saw a helpful matrix describing our inability to keep the main thing, the main thing (aka the Eisenhower Matrix). It looked like this:
When is something both urgent and important (upper-right quadrant)? That depends on what we value as supreme. For example, if I am a dog lover and my local SPCA is crammed with abandoned canines, I will feel both the importance and urgency of finding them homes. However, if I'm a cat lover, I probably won't feel the importance or urgency as keenly.
For the Christian, what thing (or things) deserve to be in that upper-right quadrant? Here is my opinion. The most important and urgent thing is to keep Jesus and His Word (the Bible) as our main thing. All other voices must be secondary ... and not even a close second. If we don't rank the "important" by this measure, we will fail to be authentic followers of Jesus. Why? Because if this is not #1, soon it will fall out of the top 10.
Perhaps you push back? "Dan, it may be supremely important to spend time with Jesus in His Word, but what makes that urgent? Can't there be other causes that grip my soul (e.g. social justice, the poor, abuse victims, and trafficking) that demand my immediate attention?"
Good question (thanks for asking). Other causes do feel urgent. I'm not suggesting we ignore them. But I propose we never sacrifice the important things on the altar of the urgent. What I'm saying is this:
There are important things that must always be more important than urgent things.
In other words, we must keep the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is Jesus and His Word. Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Important Thing #1. Not racial conflict. Not social justice. Not marching in a protest. Not arguing on social media about which injustice is greatest. Jesus and His Word are the main thing.
Noses and Knees
Our greatest need is to keep our noses in the Book and our knees on the floor. If we do, God will give us His marching orders. But if we ignore our nose and knees, we'll wander wildly from God's will.
More than ever, followers of Jesus need to:
"Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing."
What do I mean? Jesus is the Main Thing that needs to be carefully maintained as the main thing.
Mission drift away from Jesus is more common that we think. For the church today, as it wrestles with racial and social issues, the cultural river currents have swollen to class-five rapids! The real danger is no longer mere mission drift – it's pell-mell, white-knuckle, whitewater-rapids pandemonium! As the spray of water drenches us, I repeat:
The Church of Jesus Christ must return our knees to the floor and our noses to the Book.
I'm not kidding. Let me meddle for a moment: if we filled out a timesheet that recorded our discretionary time over the past month, which activities below have consumed more of our time?
- Prayer on my knees for unity and harmony in the church body?
- Arguing with fellow believers about cultural Marxism, social justice, BLM, police policies, etc.?
- Spending long chunks of time with my nose in God's Word?
- Spending long chunks of time with my nose in other books, podcasts, and videos decrying the merits/demerits of one social ideology above another?
- Or just spending all our time on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+?
It can be difficult to choose our nose and knees over more 'urgent' matters. But the alternative is perilous. Perhaps we should ask ourselves: "100 years from today, what will I look back upon as the most important thing I could have done today?"
Well-intentioned Christians are in fever-pitch debate with one another, embracing one side or the other of the current justice debate. And, it's exhausting. I know. It feels like we must thread the needle perfectly ... all the while wondering if our needle even has an eyehole. Don't despair.
Recently, these issues have so consumed my heart and mind that I've been waking up at 3 and 4 am, asking the Lord for relief. The other night, I paced back and forth, talking aloud to the Lord regarding these things. Then I'd fall to my knees at my bedside, crying out to Him some more. Then up to pace, then down again on my knees. Over and over this continued until I realized aloud:
"Lord, this social justice issue in the Church is not my problem to solve. It is Your problem. The division in the Church is not my problem. It is Your problem. The Church is not my Church. It is Your Church."
The weight shifted off my shoulders and back onto His. I then slept content, all night long.
My final installment on communication, race, and culture comes next time ... via a poem. Poetry can leverage thoughts in ways that simple text cannot. You may agree or disagree with my poem, but it is an honest attempt at what I think are the problems in our national discussion. It tackles the deficiencies of Critical Theory, an underlying ideology driving much of the rancor in the current racial conversation. To read a summary on Critical Theory, I highly recommend two articles by Neil Shenvi, here and here.