When Ministry Gets Dicey

Sometimes I wish ministry was easy. Sometimes I wish it only involved visiting the sick, preaching upbeat sermons that encouraged people, writing letters of recommendation for members who are trying to get into a school or a new job, and taking care of a few administrative matters. That’s how I wish ministry sometimes looked.

Of course, we all know ministry is not that simple. Ministry also involves taking stands and speaking to the issues of the day, while trying to do so in a way that both reflects the love and spirit of Jesus Christ. This is where it gets dicey. In today’s world, the moment you express what you believe to be the truth, even in a way that you believe expresses the love and spirit of Christ, someone who disagrees with you will often demonize you and tell you that as a pastor you ought to “keep your mouth shut and stay out of politics.”

I have always found that interesting. Across the years I have wanted to remind the people who have said that to me that not only was that the sort of thing that got Jesus crucified, but it is the very thing that has caused so many of his followers to become martyrs.

About now, you are probably wondering, “Where is Dan going with this?” Good question. So, let me cut to the chase.

I am deeply disturbed at how I see the zero tolerance policy on immigration playing out on the border. It is not that I do not understand the importance of border security. I do. I know the politicians and the authorities have a responsibility to protect the country. It is not that I do not understand things are almost always more complicated than they appear in the media or on social media. I serve a church where complicated decisions sometimes have to be made and unless an individual has been a part of the whole process, it is nearly impossible to fully explain the situation to that person. Everything can’t always be reduced to a sound bite.

That said, I have to believe we can do better than detention centers and ripping children from their parents. The damage this sort of thing does only ensures additional broken lives, distrust, crime, etc. As a nation, we have always promoted human rights for all persons, even those who are incarcerated. When we have seen human rights trampled in other countries we have been quick to respond, quick to challenge, and quick to work for peaceful resolutions. Can we do less than expect that in this situation?

Ironically, as I am writing this article, the news broke that an executive order was signed that seeks to resolve part of the problem. I am grateful for those politicians on both sides of the political aisle who are working extremely hard for more humane ways of dealing with this complicated issue. I invite you to join me in praying for them and standing with them as they seek to call for a better way.

Jesus was not setting a political policy when he said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). However, he was reminding those of us in the church that every single person who walks the face of this planet is a child of God and should be treated as such.

No, ministry is not always easy. Sometimes it can get you into trouble. I hope it doesn’t happen that way this time. But if it does…

Yours in Christ,