Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reflecting the Light in a Dark Place

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life . . ." (Phil. 2:12-16)

Below is an e-mail I sent to a fellow Naval Officer struggling with the inconsistencies found in his Command leadership and Wardroom preaching "professionalism" while being anything but while on liberty. Raises a significant and important question on how to influence a group (Biblically) when you are in no position to do so.

hey brother-

congrats on the shellbacking - good times! sounds like you are getting saltier by the day ;-) enjoy it because i guarantee you'll miss it some day. so, are you looking to board for the coveted eoow letter prior to returning home? are you going to complete the entire cruise or are they flying you back early? have your orders come through yet?

as for my two cents. it is always helpful when assessing a problem to really define it and then determine the things that you are able to influence and those things that are just outside your control. so, what's the real problem? is it the hypocrisy - the difference between what they say and what they do? if so, i've gotta say - hypocrisy is the norm with people, and i mean all people - you, me, christians, non-believes, etc. i suspect what's really bothering you is the sin of others, but not just their unabashed sinfulness - instead their sin in the face of their apparent knowledge of a more righteous (they call it "professional") way. it's as if they know better (because they speak as if they do), but then they act entirely counter to their proclamations. i can tell you - what always has broken my heart with regard to others, but even more so with myself, is not just hypocrisy, but the actual sins being committed. the leaders of your ship are sinners, but (most of
them) are not redeemed sinners. are you expecting holy spirit behavior from people that don't have the holy spirit?

so, what? what do you do - that's the question. i would suggest that you view your ship much like [our mentors that are becoming missionaries] are viewing japan or the missionaries of old viewed east swaziland or some other "barbarian" land. it's a mission field - and yours is an area that may be more difficult than even the tribes of the amazon. ok, where do you start? pray, right? pray - specifically for individuals - plead the scriptures over people by name (His Word does not return void (is. 55:11)). ask crazy things - our God is big and actually does some pretty crazy things. the next thing to do is shine. you know "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (matt 5:16). you've heard it said before - you may be all the Bible these folks will ever see, certainly in any given day. so, encourage them, serve them, possibly even be so bold as to love them. lastly, pray again. this time pray for the peace of God to reign in your heart toward this wayward people. realize your desperate need for the Gospel and how you too would be indulging in the debauchery that sickens you if not for the grace that has been lavished upon you. consider how far you are from being Jesus - compared to him you are the hypocrite, yet he loves you anyways. he sees all of your hypocrisy and gently and genuinely serves, engages, communes, interacts, and helps. this type of self-examination will give you a healthy perspective toward those you mention. brother, you have been loved so that you can love. bear the cross.

forget what they say. for that matter forget what they do. see their hearts. they are dark. but, you have the Light that overcomes the darkness (1 jn. 2:7-9). they are terminally ill. but, you know the One who came to heal (Matt. 9: 12). you have to minister the Gospel. you see they love a whole lot of things other than God and this is causing them to do a whole lot of things that fail to honor God. would you be happy if they were perfectly professional, the epitome of a naval officer (JPJ himself), yet they were living for themselves - destined for eternal darkness? being professional means nothing - not to us Christians. being right with Christ - now that has value! when their few years of naval service has come and gone and their insignificant lives have passed (rather 1, 5, or 50 years) there is forever for which their souls will exist. i think at the root of it this may be what is bothering you. sinners on the fast track to hell is disturbing to the desensitized.

the bottom line, brother - you can't do much. but, the good news is you know the One who is more than able. press into Him. if you haven't truly cried out to the Redeemer on behalf of those around you (like a prophet of the OT) then you've done little more than complain. that's not to indict, that's to encourage. KISS: pray, practice, pray. Pray the gospel for others. Practice the gospel to others. Pray the gospel for yourself. Repeat.

that's all i've got. i'll commit to praying for you.

if none of what i wrote helps forget it all and take this advice from Paul (after all he was a sailor for a time): "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love." (1st Cor. 16: 13-14).


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