A ten-point buck sought shelter inside a southern Michigan church on Monday, the opening day of the state’s firearm deer hunting season. A video shows the animal wandering around the church auditorium, at one point climbing stairs to a balcony. It eventually leapt through a window and back out into the wild.
Unfortunately, not everyone is finding the same sanctuary inside churches these days.
A Barna Group survey released Tuesday reports that 38 percent of US pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year. This percentage is up nine points since Barna asked church leaders the same question at the beginning of 2021.
A Barna official explains: “All the chaos, all the pressure, the magnifying glass of social media, the pandemic, the politics, the hyperdigital context, it makes sense that you have a lot of pastors saying, ‘Is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I was called into?’”
Pastors are not alone in needing help these days. Federal researchers reported yesterday that more than one hundred thousand Americans died of drug overdoses in the twelve-month period ending in April, up almost 30 percent from the prior year. Overdose deaths have doubled since 2015 and now surpass the toll of car crashes and guns combined.
We live in the most advanced technological age in history. We have more wealth and means than previous generations could have imagined. What, then, explains the anxiety epidemic of our age?
Why Ben Carson is an advocate for life
Dr. Ben Carson was the keynote speaker for the Twentieth Annual Celebrating Life Luncheon in Dallas yesterday. The event was sponsored by the Council for Life, one of the most effective organizations supporting life I have ever known. I am honored to serve on their Advisory Board and to encourage their mission and ministry.
The previous evening, the Council held a dinner for board members and invited guests. Matthew West provided worship music for the evening and for yesterday’s luncheon. I was privileged to interview them both as part of the program.
As you may know, Dr. Carson was an award-winning pediatric neurosurgeon, named by CNN and Time magazine as one of America’s twenty foremost physicians and scientists and selected by the Library of Congress as one of eighty-nine “Living Legends” on its two-hundredth anniversary. He then became a candidate for president of the United States before serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He founded and leads the American Cornerstone Institute in promoting and preserving individual and religious liberty and serving all our citizens.
During our conversation, I asked Dr. Carson how he had come to be such an advocate for life. He explained that he grew up in a very liberal worldview, one that was furthered by his education at Yale, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins. While he told us that he did not agree with abortion personally, he also believed that he had no right to force his belief on women. (This is the most common pro-choice explanation I have heard over the years.)
However, he came to understand that abortion, which treats an unborn child as less than fully human, is very similar to slavery, which treats a person of a different race as less than fully human. Then he asked himself: “What if abolitionists had taken the same position on slavery that I am taking on abortion? What if they had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery personally, but I don’t want to force my beliefs on slaveholders?’ Where would I be today?”
Dr. Carson told our group that this reasoning led him to advocate passionately for all life, beginning at conception.
Our perennial temptation
Reflecting on his remarkable observation, I realized that the temptation to make others a means to our ends is endemic to fallen human nature and, therefore, every dimension of human experience. Like our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5), you and I face this temptation every moment of every day.
For example, God intends sexual relations to be the celebration of covenant love between a husband and a wife, while the so-called sexual revolution objectifies others as a means to our sexual pleasure. Our Creator makes each human in his image as a person of sacred worth, while pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking make them objects of lust and greed.
If murderers valued their victims as God does, what would be the impact on our homicide epidemic? If liars, thieves, and other criminals did the same, what would be the result?
Slave traders and owners justified their horrific sin by viewing Africans as inferior to white people. White supremacists similarly denigrate Jews and ethnic minorities today. Over decades of pastoral experience, I have often met church members who objectify their pastor and staff ministers as their employees, measuring their value by their utility rather than their intrinsic worth as God’s children and servants.
Three prayers that would change the world
The way forward is found in Jesus’ Great Commandments (Mark 12:29–31), where we are taught to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On this basis, you and I should pray three prayers every day:
One: “God, help me to love you fully in response to your unconditional love for me.”
The more we remember our Father’s sacrificial, passionate, absolute love for us, the more we will want to love him in the same way.
Two: “God, help me love myself as you love me.”
The more we remember what Jesus did to restore our relationship with our Father, the more we will find our self-worth, not in our possessions, popularity, or performance but in his never-ending, never-changing love for us.
Three: “God, help me love my neighbor as you love me.”
The more we experience God’s transforming love, the more we will be empowered and motivated to share it with every person we can. And the more we will love them as we are loved.
Imagine the difference it would make in the world if Christians were known for loving others as God loves us.
Now imagine the difference for the next person you meet.