Heartbreak before Hope
Let’s talk heartache before we talk hope. The top headline in the July 31st The Times-Tribune read “CLAIMS V. DIOSCESE GROW.”
A statewide grand jury report details 81 individuals, mostly former diocesan priests but also members of religious communities and lay people have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.
How many were sexually abused?
I said we’d talk heartache before we talk hope. I should have said, “Let’s talk about overwhelming heartache and heartbreak on a wide scale before talking about hope.”
I’m not speaking to Catholicism specifically; I am speaking to all churches all over the U.S. and to anyone who may wonder why church attendance remains on a steep decline.
In Churchless, editors David Kinnaman and George Barna report “there is not a single demographic for which church attendance is on the increase…. Because young adults have the highest levels of church avoidance, their children are less likely to attend church, increasing the likelihood that they, too, will avoid churches in adulthood.”
This is sobering news. It’s painful news to those who devote their lives to the gospel because they know the healing love Jesus provides those who know and commit themselves to him.
So, Hagenbuch, someone can ask. “Where’s the hope?”
Micah 7:7 is a good starting point. Micah, one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament, says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
In other words, God isn’t done yet. The wise know this and wait for this.
Said very simply, freewill and our fallen, sinful nature are the one-two combo as to why there is evil in the world, and even in some churches, but God uses people with a heart and a passion not for their power or comfort, but for His glory.
The Apostle Paul, before experiencing Jesus, did his fair share of very bad acts. Yet God used this passionate man for powerful ministry. For example, Paul declared he would “try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Cor 9:22).
According to Brandon Cox, author of Rewired, Paul was willing to adapt not his theology but his communication style to reach any audience with the gospel. Paul’s willingness to meet and to bend to meet those who lived in a culture far different from his own set him apart.
Like me, Cox finds Paul inspiring. Cox believes we must actively engage others with the hope that is within us as Christians. If we hope to share Jesus with the unchurched, we, like Paul, need to go where they are.
Where they are is not in worship on Sunday mornings.
Just as in Paul’s day, a lot of hurting people surround us. Abuse in power is older than sliced bread. This does not stop us who love God and seek justice, however. Rather, this just calls us to more action in more places beyond churches on Sunday mornings.
I close with lyrics from Edward Mote’s classic 1834 hymn. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness.”
This blog first appeared as a column in The Susquehanna Independent on August 7, 2019.