Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Dynamics of Faith: Morally Not for Sale


Law is one thing and morality is another. Ideally, there should be a mesh.

I am currently reading the Reverend Darrel E. Berg, A Piece of Blue Sky: The Dynamics of Faith, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965. The LawPundit is going to be quoting from that book from time to time.

In the chapter "Not for Sale", Darrel E. Berg refers to Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer as a role model for his ministry as man morally "not for sale", who turned his back on riches to be a medical missionary in Africa:
"A man who 'has it made' ministers to those who have no claim on him."
-- Darrel E. Berg, A Piece of Blue Sky: The Dynamics of Faith

What does it mean to be "not for sale" morally? Darrel addresses not only his own congregation, but the congregations of all churches:
"[W]e need to remember that the greatest testing may come to us after we have gotten what we wanted....Then it is that the King of Sodom comes making his approach, appealing to our selfishness, "Keep the spoil for yourself, keep your money for yourself, keep your prestige for yourself; don't risk it for those who don't deserve it. Keep your schools to yourselves, and your churches, your clubs and your neighborhoods." That is the way the King of Sodom talks, and if we listen to him we sometimes sell all that we are to him.

The great battles are not the military, political or business battles, but the moral battles. Abraham won a surprising victory over the forces of the ancient King Chedorloamer, but it was not more important than his victory over the King of Sodom on the way home. In the conquest, he showed that all that he stood for was unique and sacred and not for sale.

It was important for us to win over the Nazi, but it would be a shame for us to have won that struggle and then fail to win the moral struggle with racial injustice, crime and corruption in which we are now involved. It is important for us to win the battle to make a living, but it is even more important for us to win the battle to be what we are called to be. It was important for Samson to defeat the Philistines, but it was a shame that on the way home he had to fall prey to Delilah. It is important for us to win the argument with the Communists, but it would be sad if we lost our souls to Sodom before we could carry home the trophy."
Indeed, the Nazis and the Communists have by and large been defeated, but are "we in America" losing the trophy on our way home? by filling our coffers more and more at the expense of our neighbors? by opposing health care for all? by keeping our spoils of the battle to make a living only for ourselves?

Darrel was a mentor of mine in younger days and is still going strong today, even though he is over 90.

In my opinion, this is the kind of seminal book that should be reprinted, and churches of all denominations should make it available to be read by their congregations.

I saw Darrel last year back in the United States and he asked me what was keeping me in Europe. I replied that each life had its own destiny and that is where mine appeared to be. I might better have answered that I am "battling to be what I have been called to be" in order not to lose my way on the way home.

Law is one thing and morality is another. Ideally, there has to be a mesh.



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