For the past few weeks, my Sunday evenings have been spent online with a diverse group of people discussing Jemar Tisby’s must-read book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the White Church’s Complicity in Racism. This past week, we talked about, among other things, one of the giants of Christian history, George Whitefield. We know him as one of the founders of Methodism, an influential evangelist, and a mighty revival preacher. He also had a highly conflicted relationship with the issue of slavery.
On the one hand, Whitefield welcomed African American converts and spoke out against the brutality of slaveholders. On the other hand, when his dream project, Bethesda Orphanage, started to sink financially, Whitefield turned to slavery for the solution. He purchased a 640-acre plantation in South Carolina and planned to used the profits to fund his orphanage. Of course, the only way to make a profit was to use unpaid labor, so Whitefield bought slaves to work his plantation.
This was a hard story to wrap my head around: to rescue and nurture orphans, clearly a godly cause, he purchased human beings as property and employed them as slaves. I do not doubt that he treated his slaves humanely, but he bought them and held them as property, just the same.
This got me thinking about the importance of doing God’s work God’s way. I wonder what miracle George Whitefield might have missed by taking matters into his own hands? But since I better yank the log out of my own eye before I worry about the speck of dust in my brother’s eye, let me ask another question: how many miracles have I missed in my ministry because I chose to act on my own desires according to what seemed practical, instead of what I saw the Father doing?
I wonder how often we are tempted to compromise with world systems and use ungodly methods to bring our God-given visions to reality?
I think about Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, where the accuser tempted him with fleshly hunger, worldly power, and pride, trying to lure him away from trusting God alone. If it were me, I would not only have been tempted to zap a stone and fill my empty belly; I also would have been tempted to see this as an easy solution to the plight of the hungry masses I encountered daily. If the devil showed me all the kingdoms of the world and offered me their authority, I would be tempted by the possibility of bringing an abrupt end to the overwhelming pain, suffering, and spiritual torment that I witnessed around me every day. If such a thought occurs to a fatally-flawed, pea-brained human such as myself, I can imagine that the compassionate Christ had all these possibilities flash through his brilliant mind in an instant.
Yet, there was only one way for Jesus -the way of humble obedience. Jesus didn’t strategize, theorize, or compromise; he only did what he saw the Father doing. He trusted God’s plan for his life, for his ministry, and the world that he loved. It was a wild, abandoned sort of trust that followed the Father, moment by moment, day after day, up mountains and across seas, through dusty villages and crowded towns, and, finally, to Golgotha. As I study his life, I know: this is what it looks like to do God’s work God’s way.
Lord, help us to see where we rely on anything or anyone besides you. Show us where our strategic plans cross the line into self-sufficiency. Show us our areas of compromise, where we might try to accomplish seemingly good things using ways that are not yours. Please show us the idols in our lives; anything we lift up or bow to besides God. Have mercy and help us to see.
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:6