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The What Now

More than two and a half years have gone by since I wrote “I Stand for You,” and I’m beginning to reevaluate what I wrote. On that early April morning up on my roof in Durban, South Africa, it all made perfect sense: I’ve been through some stuff, I’m still a believer on the other side, I’m standing firm, I need to sing that to Jesus, and other people can maybe sing it along with me. We can all together tell Jesus how committed we are to Him and how grateful we are that He helps us persevere.

Sensible.

Good song material.

However, I’m now beginning to think about the “what now?” The “what now?” for me, is the Spirit saying, “Great, you declared your resolve, but isn’t there something more?” And, of course, there’s always more. We can’t always be declaring our resolve and making nice statements to God without there being some practical outworking of what we’re saying we believe. All that makes us is, well, nice. Sure, God wants us to be strong, whole, kind, loving, etc. But there comes a point—and it seems to happen periodically—where God says, “OK. What now?” Because “nice” isn’t exactly one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s more like a really succulent leaf.

What I’m getting at here is a problem with our culture. Not our culture at large but our Christian culture, this very peculiar thing we’ve developed in the last few decades that sees us making grand statements set to unit-shifting music that eventually ends up on a T-shirt at a Christian festival. Or, God forbid, on a Testamint. Of course, similar things have being going on throughout the Church’s convoluted history; this is just round 96,087 and we’re the ones who must either address the situation or leave it for someone else to do.

My songwriter’s remorse has led me to a sharp point: Once we’re truly able to sing, Jesus, I stand for you, no matter what you lead me through, is that enough? Is victory over personal odds enough in itself, or does it merely qualify us for the next level? I’m not knocking personal victories: I’ve lived, breathed and bled every word of that song, and I would not be a believer anymore if not for the victories Jesus has helped me win in the day-to-day struggles of my life. But what for? What now? Just so I can write a nice song for nice people to sing nicely?

No. That can’t be all there is.

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How about so that I can be a part of the Church’s great victory in this generation in other peoples’ lives? Sure, uplifting and encouraging music filled with worthy statements of faith has a role to play in edifying believers, but for what purpose? The Church has embraced so many “nice” causes over the years and yet has seemingly failed to embrace the one that Jesus constantly pointed us to: The poor. The lepers. The unwashed. The hungry. The dying. The “others.”

Right now Bono and Jesus are saying the same thing: The biggest issue the body of Christ faces today is the fact that it has no hands and feet. The cold winds of Indifference keep it warming itself by the cozy fire of Everything Else while rock stars and politicians run headlong into to the fray. It seems to me like the Church is a city shining on a hill accessed only with the right Christian bumper sticker. Yes, I’m making sweeping generalizations, and I’m possibly way out of line, considering the many amazingly involved churches around the globe. But what I’m unrepentantly pointing to is this: Once we’ve made our “character stand,” once we’ve endured and won and stood up and kept standing, then our work begins. Then the world starts to see our saltiness. Then the world looks and sees the Church in action and says, “Truly, He was the Son of God.”

Ever had that nagging and unsettling sense of restlessness in the middle of a worship service? Ever felt like putting your hand up in the middle of a sermon and asking, “Yes, but what about …?” Ever left church on a Sunday morning feeling a bit flat … more so than when you arrived? I have. It’s awful. A lot of the time I’ll try to take a deep look at myself for the umpteenth time and try to figure out what I’ve missed, what I’m currently doing wrong, what I did wrong last Thursday. And a lot of the time that’s a healthy thing to do; we take our temperatures and keep a check on our faith levels to make sure our hearts are still beating. But more and more as we walk with Christ, the culture around us encourages us toward an unhealthy level of introspection, and we end up walking head-down through the world—with “I Stand for You” on our T-shirts. And in the course of that two-hour church service, thousands of people around the world have just died from preventable diseases. There’s nothing wrong with church, of course, but if we leave those church services gazing at our navels, has anything been achieved? Really? It’s vital to tell God how much we love Him, but doesn’t He sometimes say, “I know, thank you—now go out and prove it”?

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