Have you ever read history books and found yourself wondering how certain things ever happened or what you would have done in those times? I can picture my ninth-grade history class, bantering with my peers about how we would have been the ones to do the right thing—how we would have been different.
Is it just me, or do we love to view ourselves as the ones with valor and uprightness? We all want to be David, not Saul or Goliath, but what happens when we actually have our moment? What happens when God drops us right into something that will be in the history books of the next generation?
Undoubtedly, we find ourselves in one of those moments today, and many are hoping to be on the right side of history. In spite of that universal truth, I’m amazed how a similar desire can lead to such differing approaches. The difference in approach can be seen generationally, racially, politically and even religiously motivated. Even households have found themselves split over how we should respond in this unique time that I would call both unrest and opportunity.
Though it might be enticing to discuss the nuances of that, I have no interest rousing anyone’s preferences and convictions. Instead, I simply want to remind us all that though the generation changes and the standards of this world shift, what God calls His people to has always remained! Just as He is the same yesterday, today and forever, so too is His call for us to be as He is.
In simple terms, the call is to be holy.
Whether you are reading Leviticus, Isaiah or 1 Peter, God calls his people to holiness. This call to holiness suffices for every generation, every age and every culture. Those who are His are to be as He is.
To be as He is means to be distinguished—someone who is an outlier to culture of the time. The people of Israel were distinct in simple things, such as how they dressed, and in bigger things, like how they treated foreigners.
When Jesus hit the scene, it was much of the same. He didn’t lower the standard. Instead, He made it clearer through His life and His teaching. Just check out Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
From that same sermon, we find this overwhelming echo of humility: A convincing invitation to be gentle and lowly in heart.
Jesus infused His discourse with the heart-focused principle that God uplifts the humble and favors those who walk in humility. He paints the picture that humility in its true form is a fruit of the holy life.
In every generation and in every stage of history, evil and compromise have no excuse. For every season there is a Job, a Daniel or a Mordecai. For every generation there is a Wilberforce, a Bonhoeffer or a John Lewis. These were not perfect people by any means, but they were humble people who refused to give any excuse for compromise and complacency.
Their humility may have looked different in practice, but it produced change and inspiration that went well beyond their own interests. These are men who knew that God rules in every season and every generation, and that God sits on the throne over every kingdom, throughout every age. What that meant for them and us today is that the command to love God and your neighbor (Mark 12:30-31) never loses it power, nor does God ever shift that expectation.
Those men are heroes to us today, but in their time, they were ordinary men who simply did the next right thing regardless of what it cost and regardless of who it offended. They did the next right thing because of who it glorified and because of who it was that gave such a mandate: The Holy God of the universe.
From a holy humility, we find a wholesome path forward. We find an ethic that stands the test of time for tomorrow yet finds its roots in rich history. It is a heritage that invites all people, of all generations and of all denominations to the right side of history. It opens the door not to compromise but to consummation as we work to bring His kingdom near. It sifts through all of the buzzwords of today and calls us not to worry so much about the things to avoid, but draws us toward the things that demand our kingdom response.
Being holy and being humble means we are branches of Jesus that catch the wind and wreck roofs, emptying our jars as we grip the plow for the Father’s kingdom. It means we become living statues of Christ, imitating Him as He obeyed the Father. It means we are the ones who redeem today so in tomorrow’s history class, Christ’s church won’t be hidden.
We find ourselves in a pivotal moment. May we preserve our heritage to give the next generation an inheritance. May we hold tightly to the knowledge that if the Gospel is truly the solution to today’s suffering and unrest, then the unrest and suffering must be met head on by those who possess it.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek and those who thirst for His righteousness. Blessed are the merciful, the pure hearts, those who bring His peace into chaos, yet are condemned for doing it. Be glad about it, because there is an audience of One who matters most, and He is preparing a place for you.
Terrence Turman is the associate pastor of Southeast’s City Region.