In the Office: Until Christ Is Formed

I met with a small group of clergy friends the other day, and one of the topics we discussed was the challenge of “speaking prophetically” in the midst of a cultural and political environment that is as badly divided as ours is. On the one hand, we’ve got convictions about how God’s Word speaks to the issues of our day; and on the other, we’re aware sharing these convictions has the potential to fracture fellowship, to derail ministry – and in some cases – to put the emotional and financial well-being of our families at risk.

Sadly, I have no easy way to resolve this tension. (Then again, when did God say that serving Him was going to be easy?) Part of me would like to be one of those preachers who stands in the pulpit and boldly declares: “Thus saith the Lord.” But part of me knows (both from biblical example and from life experience) what sometimes happens to those who challenge the underlying biases of “God’s people.” And besides, when it comes to discerning exactly “what the Lord saith” about the contentious issues of our day, I’ve got plenty of questions of my own.

At the very least, I hope that I (and we) can take some guidance from this. In today’s Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, the Apostle Paul is speaking to a group of believers who have failed to keep their focus where it needs to be. He tells them:

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (emphasis mine), how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Galatians 4:19-20)

Paul’s passion was to be a “midwife” for the birthing of Christ’s image in others. It wasn’t about a cultural agenda or a political platform per se (although Christian formation has implications for these things, to be sure). His goal was to see the good news of God’s grace conceived within human hearts – and to nurture that seed until it grew into kingdom life. And my prayer is that my life and ministry (and even my occasional “prophetic word”) will serve that same purpose.

So, my friends…how is Christ being formed in you (and in us) today? And when we look at the issues that fill the news – especially insofar as they touch upon questions of how we treat the poor, the stranger, and “the other” – how would Christ respond? And more to the point: How did Christ respond?

May that image be formed in you – and in me – and in us today. And may even the pains and questions of that formative process make us look forward to the joy of new life.

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