On Easter let’s proclaim—not argue for—faith

Bishop Woodie W. White

Bishop Woodie W. White

I have long ceased arguing faith. That is, the effort to “prove” the validity and merits of Christian belief.

I am appreciative of the works of scholars and theologians who do so, and I am in the debt of many. I continue to read with benefit the contemporary writings of religious scholars and church leaders as they seek to show the relevance of Christianity to a post-modern world. They serve the Christian community well.

There was a time of course, when I believed I could “argue” faith into others. I wanted others to see the logic of belief—especially my own. Or equally important, I wanted to convince them of the validity of the Christian claim. I think, sometimes, my preaching may have revealed such an inclination. Others have tried to frighten people into faith.

Over time, however, I learned to argue less and witness more. To tell the story of faith, witnessing in word and deed to what I have “seen” and what it has done!

I think that’s what an Easter Faith requires. In fact, that is what I expect as I sit in a pew on Easter Sunday morning. Less argument and more proclamation. It would be so if I had the opportunity to grace a pulpit on that Resurrection Day. But now I have the privilege of savoring the testimony of others. My anticipation has been growing these past weeks of Lent.

The final verse of the familiar hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story,” begins with these words: “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” Easter Faith is our old, old story.

We know it well. We have heard it again and again. Yet Christians around the world, Believers at all stages of belief will come to hear it once more.

Actually, what is desired most in the telling is not dramatic intensity so much as authenticity. I want to sense that the witness on that morning is not arguing faith but confessing it! For in Easter is a promise of Hope—hope for the future, hope for eternity. Hope in the midst of chaos and crisis. Hope for the world that is and hope for the Kingdom and Reign of God to come.

Frankly, my spirit is pretty beat up at this time. There seems to be an increase in violence around us and a bent to destroy others.

Hate seems to drench our communities and incivility marks our discourse. Our better angels seem to have flown away! The Faithful seem fewer or more silent. All the wrong things in life seem to have an upper hand.

More frightening is a capitulation to a world of destruction, incivility and animosity.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often referred to a popular blues singer, who sang a song with the line, “Been down so long, down don’t bother me.” Can a society become so immune to hatefulness, that it is no longer repulsed by it?

Easter is our reminder that evil does not and will not have the final answer. Ultimately love will triumph over hate, and life will win out over death. It is the assurance that light overcomes the darkness. And goodness and righteousness will finally rule.

On Easter morning we are reminded of this reality in special ways. It does not need to be argued, but proclaimed. Or as my daughter would say, “It is what it is!”

Hallelujah!

 

Retired Bishop Woodie W. White is the denomination’s Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, in Atlanta.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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