Friday, January 13, 2006
Johnny Cash and "Living" Faith
I am a huuuuge Johnny Cash fan. The other day, while I was working, I was listening to some old Cash tunes. For some reason or another, one of the songs in particular jumped out and grabbed me. It was called The Man in Black. I had heard the song a thousand times, but I have to admit, I hadn't really given much thought to what it was saying. That all changed on that day:
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
Suddenly, I was challenged by these words. I began to think about how inconsistent the Christian witness in the world can be, more often than not. We will talk a big game, but when push comes to shove, we step aside. Even worse still, when we do decide to "act" on our faith, it usually comes with a price; judge first--help second. For instance, I can't tell you how many times I've heard a fellow christian so easily pass "divine" judgement on the whole state of Louisiana after the Katrina disaster. Louisiana is no different than any other state when it comes to having problems with sin. An even more recent example would be Pat Robertson (yet again) suggesting that Israel Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was being taught a lesson by God via massive stroke. All this being said, I am not saying that God doesn't visit people with divine wrath, be it hurricane or stroke. What I am saying is that it is not our place to make that call when God has not made it known to us. The work of the church is not to pass judgement; that's God's business. Our duty is to lift up the the downtrodden and broken-hearted by sharing the love of Christ with them and also by showing a consistent ethic for all human life by caring not only for the spiritual, but the physical needs as well, due to the fact that all mankind (saved and unsaved) are made in the image of God.
We have a tendancy to develop "spiritual amnesia". We forget the depths from which we have been lifted up. Nothing that we have accomplished in the faith is wrought by our own hands. Nothing. It is all due to the loving mercy and the grace of God from beginning to end. In an age of "What would Jesus Do?", we are so quick to forget exactly what it is that Jesus did. It was Jesus that "wore our black". Christ came down from His throne, becoming human, taking on our sin (of which he had no part), and sympathizing with our condition so that we sinners, those who were spiritually destitute, crippled, blind and dumb to the things of God, could partake and be imputed with His perfect righteousness. He paid the sacrafice with His life, in our place so that we can stand blameless before the Father. Further still, he continues to intercede on our behalf before God as our eternal High Priest. It is this love that should compel us. In remembering what God has done for us through Christ, we should be compelled to act toward our fellow man, christians and non-christians alike. We should not look on the lost and the downtrodden with contempt, believing that they are getting what they rightfully deserve. Instead of saying, "Better them than me", we should be saying, "If not for the grace of God, that would definitely be me". It is the latter sentiment that has launched some of the greatest missionary campaigns, revivals and christian charity organizations that the world has ever known. As the Church of Christ, we know the way to make things better. It is time that we started fleshing out that faith, showing the works that faith produces. It is about time that we recover from the amnesiatic state, remebmering that while we are justified by faith in Christ alone, that faith is not alone. The love of Christ must be actively shown in and through us to the rest of the world. In the words of songwriter Aaron Tate:
"May the Bread on your toungue leave a trail of crumbs to lead the hungry back to the place where you are from."***
And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
-Luke 13:2-3 (ESV)
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."
-2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
-Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
"though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."
-1 Timothy 1:13-16 (ESV)
"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead...You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;"
-James 2:15-17,22 (ESV)
"We love because he first loved us."
-1 John 4:19 (ESV)
***From the song, "Take to the World" by A. Tate
Soli Deo Gloria,