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In Times Like These, How Shall We Love, Convene, and Pray? – Part 2

By Fraser Venter

I recently read, “In these turbulent days of uncertainty, the evils of war and economic and racial injustice threaten the very survival of the human race. Indeed, we live in a day of grave crisis.”

One would think that this “grave crisis” day described our current culture, but the statement written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 is still relevant today (King Jr., Martin Luther. Strength to Love (p. xv). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition).

Beloved, would you agree that we still live in such a time as this? Indeed, this is the proclamation of our national headlines. However, we do not live by headlines, for we are not a people without hope, both now and not yet. Why?

John Wesley, commenting on Matthew 10:16, where Jesus emphatically tells the disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves: so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (NRSV), stated the following:

“Be ye, therefore, wise as serpents,” while ye are “harmless as doves.” This wisdom will instruct you how to suit your words, and whole behavior, to the persons with whom you have to do, to the time, place, and all other circumstances. It will teach you to cut off the occasion of offense, even from those who seek occasion, and to do things of the most offensive nature in the least offensive manner that is possible (The Works of John Wesley, Third Edition, vol. 6 (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), 163).

As Free Methodists, we must not forget that we are empowered with wisdom (serpent power) and humility (dove power) when ministering to difficult and complex issues in our culture. And when entering them.

“The key to our hope is our engagement with what the Spirit of God is saying and doing to know what involves mindfulness and what involves service.”

As Free Methodists, even though what we see reflects the gravity of the crisis, we are reminded that our Savior is an overcomer of what is grave.

The key to our hope is our engagement with what the Spirit of God is saying and doing to know what involves mindfulness and what involves service. What might include prayer, or what requires protest? What involves empathy, and what provides action? What might be the pastoral approach or the prophetic approach? Not that these positions are polarized or independent of each other. And I would suggest they are always best done in some combination; nevertheless, Scripture reminds us that we steward serpent and dove power. And thus, we must be ready to submit to the obedience of the Spirit of God on when, how, who, what, and where to engage with that power.

Martin Luther King Jr. wisely reminds us, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

We must also remember that we have authority in Christ in addition to the stewarding of power. If power is the capacity/ability to do a thing as a serpent or dove, authority is the right to steward how, why, where, and when we do a thing. And this authority is derived from Jesus, not my gifts or titles. Power is my giftedness or perceived position submitted to Christ’s authority in humble mutuality with others that influence our environments and encounters.

Imagine almost 2,000 Free Methodists walking with me in alignment with their power and authority. What might happen at our General Conference? What might happen in the state of Florida that reverberates throughout our nation? It is not only college campuses that experience renewal or revival.

Now power and authority in themselves can be both harmful and helpful. Power and authority are great for those working in the fire department to help me in a fire. The power and authority of a surgeon to operate on me precisely is helpful. But an axe or scalpel in the wrong hands of power and authority can be lethal! And thus, we must learn to submit our power and authority to Christ continually and humbly see one another in light of Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV):

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”

Yet, we must also recognize that the church is positioned, including the Free Methodist Church, to have such power and authority that the gates of hell will not prevail against.

Like you, I am sure you have seen the plethora of challenges our nation and local states face, including Florida, the host of our upcoming General Conference. In many ways, Florida mirrors what several states are wrestling with concerning immigration, education, political tension, abuse of power, and the mistreatment of several marginalized communities. So, what does our stewarding of power and authority look like as we enter this space?

As I have been praying — as I hope you have — for our upcoming General Conference and the space where nearly 2,000 Free Methodists nationally and globally will be present, I have prayed about our impact. (See Part 3 for the Prayer)

You are loved!

Fraser Venter

Fraser Venter, D.Min., is the strategic catalyst for love-driven justice on the Free Methodist Church USA Executive Leadership Team. He previously served as the lead pastor of Cucamonga Christian Fellowship in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and as a superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. He earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Azusa Pacific University. And is currently enrolled in the Masters of Justice and Advocacy at Fuller Seminary.

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