What’s that in your hand?

We allowed all of our children, as infants, to take a pacifier. Like anything else parents do (or don’t do), it can be up for debate on short- and long-term consequences. For us, it meant more sleep for mom and dad at night when Kara (our oldest) was little. So, we kept up the tradition three more times.

When the youngest one was only a few months old, he not only needed one pacifier in his mouth, but always wanted another one in his hand. He didn’t need a blanket or teddy bear come bedtime. But, he always needed a second pacifier to hold on to in order to fall asleep. Oftentimes, the spare tire (so to speak) was put into use and we would find the original lost deep beneath the mountain of covers, pillows, and various stuffed animals.

In fact, if you really wanted to get him riled up at night, or just before an afternoon nap, then grabbing the extra one out of his hand would do the trick. Or even pretending like you were going to, depending on his mood. It was that important to him, that he had it in his hand.

If you knew that tomorrow you would have to make a choice of one or two items from your house to save and nothing else, what would you choose? Your family members are not in danger, any pets make it out alive, and your vehicle and phone are fine too.

So, what’s left? Can you picture it? Have you narrowed it down to two or three things? I hope you can see it now, in your mind’s eye.

What it is exactly I might not can guess. What I can surmise about it is whatever the item may be, it holds some great value to you. Maybe it is monetarily valuable too, but I bet that’s not at the heart of why you chose what you chose. It really means something to you. You couldn’t imagine having to start over somewhere knowing you had a chance to take this item with you and you chose not to.

This week, Pastor J.D. Greear doubled down on the intention of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination of churches in the United States, to drop the word “Southern” from its name. I have been a member or faithful attendee of only a handful of churches in my lifetime, all of which were members of the SBC. And, I have become a follower of Pastor Greear’s teachings and sermons since he took over as SBC President in 2018.

So, my response to his determination to remove the word “Southern” from the title of the only collection of church gatherings of which I have ever known?


Why get excited over this?

It has nothing to do with the purpose for which the collection of churches exists!

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 in a split with Northern Baptists (who later chose to be known as American Baptists). There were a few issues that divided the two sets of churches. But, in Pre-Civil War times in the United States, you can likely guess the one point that they just couldn’t reconcile. That’s right – whether or not their pastors and missionaries could own other human beings; a practice known as slavery.

So, while a decision like that isn’t going to radically impact the hearts of every member of every church in the denomination, I still thought it was important. Making sure that any group of individuals that claim Jesus at the heart of what they do stay the course that the Messiah Himself set us on – tell the good news and make disciples.

I continue to be amazed, however.

Not at the simple-mindedness of others.

Not at the misguided affection we continue to have for things that have Z-E-R-O kingdom impact.

Not even at the layered and repressed racism that has to exist in the hearts and minds of individuals.

I am amazed at how naive I still am.

I don’t believe for a second that any church in the SBC in 2020 is a proponent of slavery, so don’t even begin to think that I am drawing that conclusion. Nor do I think getting rid of a word in the title will heal all wounds, open all doors, and be the answer to all of the racial inequality in Protestant churches in America.

What I am asking those who I see now on my social media feed in a frenzy over even the suggestion of removing the word “Southern” from the denomination’s title is, “What’s that in your hand?”

We hold tight to things that are dear to us. Things that mean something. That connect to our soul.

In my faith walk, there’s no single tangible item that should fit that description. A copy of God’s Word might get pretty close, but in first world USA, another copy is readily available at every corner store that carries books at all. Or on the app on my phone. Or any number of websites.

I can’t imagine feeling that my faith has been attacked by you re-naming something. So, my frustration with my own naivete is grounded in the disappointment I continue to feel with people around me who say that share the same faith, yet miss the point of everything Jesus said to go and do.

So here’s a list of questions I have for others in the faith who have their hands wrapped tightly around something that I don’t. I want to make sure I am not falling short of what He has called me to be and do.

  • What name did the church that Jesus attend go by?
  • What race did Jesus primarily minister to? (Or what about Paul – what group did he spend most of his ministry around?)
  • What standard did others have to meet in order to be an object of Jesus’ attention or affection?
  • To what moral aptitude must an individual reach for Jesus to take seriously as a follower?
  • What political party or political sect did Jesus identify best with in the ancient world?
  • How much of the New Testament focuses on being loyal to a nation, a race, or a people group?
  • How many times is “patriotic” mentioned as a sign of being more Christlike? How many times is Jesus Himself described as such?
  • What church or religious traditions did Jesus say were the most important?
  • And finally – can someone name one – just one worldly thing that Jesus expressed great love for?

I am hopeful and certain that someone of greater theological propensity than I is able to put me on the right spiritual track, should I be off base here.

Until then, I for one am happy to remove anything – anything – that keeps someone else from being willing to hear about Jesus or that gives the impression that any church that I am associated with, even if slightly, that someone does not care about them.

Let me remind you of His own words when the most “religious” of individuals wanted to question Jesus why he didn’t uphold the most sacred of their rules and rituals:

“When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your min. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Matthew 22:34-40

Love God.
Love Others.
Serve Both.

Make sure what you’re holding on to is worth the grip.

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