By Eric Bishop
The following is a meditation on the theme for the 52nd Annual Pacific Southwest District Conference, written by the 2015 district moderator Eric Bishop. He also has served recently on the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee:
The theme for this year’s conference is “Called to Be Just Christians.” It is based on Matthew 5:1-12 and 25:33-45. We will explore the intended double meaning of the theme throughout the year but as we sit with a time of protests and calls for “justice” in our communities, and our world, there is no better time to reflect on what justice means.
Because I am an educator at heart, I find the best way to learn is through conversation and dialogue. So I not only hope to update you on my year as moderator and my travels around California and Arizona, but also to use this as a place to talk about being “Just Christians,” in both senses of the word. If we want to call ourselves Christians, to just be Christians, then we must model our lives and our attitudes after Christ. The very name “Christian” is defined as being Christ-like. Living a Christ-like life can be uncomfortable and uneasy. To walk with the disenfranchised and give comfort to the afflicted, is sometimes uncomfortable. And yet, we are also called to be Just Christians, and seek and provide justice whenever and wherever it is appropriate. Providing justice is neither comfortable nor easy. But since when did being a Christian mean comfort and ease? Shielding the meek is scary. So too is calling out injustices we see. Not just the big ones, but the everyday ones that exist in our communities.
So let’s begin the dialogue and conversation about being called to be Just Christians. What are your stories of being just a Christian and/or being a Just Christian? When have you or your congregations walked with the poor in spirit, or the mourners, or the meek, or the hungry? When have you worked with the merciful, or been enlightened by the pure of heart? When have you been peacemakers or represented the persecuted? Or better yet, when have you fed the hungry, or given a drink to the thirsty? When did you welcome a stranger and take care of the sick, or visited those imprisoned?
I know because we are Brethren that the stories are out there. And I know that because we are Brethren, we don’t talk about what we do. But we are called to do it. And sharing our stories may inspire others to just be Christian or be a Just Christian.
-— Eric Bishop is the 2015 moderator of Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren, and a recent member of the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. He is a member of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. Contact him with your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.