Bacote: Some practical help to sustain your public witness

by Ferrell Foster on February 3, 2017 in CLC

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. -- Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:7-10)

Paul encouraged the church in Galatia to not grow weary because he probably knew weariness can so easily overtake those who seek to do what is good and right. He probably had battled exhaustion himself -- not just tiredness from working, but discouragement from the size of the tasks.

Vincent Bacote, who will be speaking at the CLC Advocacy Day Feb. 28, has some wise words for us in this regard. In order to persevere in doing good we need three things with roots in the Bible -- lament, humility, and a cruciform perspective. These will “help us to stay with our task in the face of frustration,” Bacote writes in his book, The Political Disciple.

Bacote is addressing our efforts to do good in the broader society. We “must face the harsh truth that we cannot easily manage the direction of society (even if we gain lots of power), and that we cannot always discern the best path toward a good society. History is not a ship easily guided by our grand plans and dreams,” he says.

As a result, Christ followers “need to seriously consider ways to be truthful and faithful as we experience the tension” of Christians working in a world awaiting its final redemption.

Bacote calls lament a “long-lost art.” Christ followers simply do not talk much about grief, sorrow, and regret related to our efforts to influence our communities, both local and global.

There is reason to grieve. Our experience on Earth gives us hints of heaven, but this is not heaven. All is not well, and if you buck the sin, it bucks back.

“But the practice of lament is not a commitment to hiding in our prayer closet until Jesus returns,” Bacote says. “ To lament means we participate in an ongoing practice of putting our disappointments in God’s hands, including the times when we are tempted to get out of the game.”

Second, and some of us will not like to hear this, we need to temper our expectations. This is the part that requires humility. Bacote said we see in Scripture “the common thread that God will be the one who ultimately finishes the story. . . .

“What this means in terms of history is that we should refrain from both excessive pessimism and excessive optimism when it comes to our actions in the public realm. This leads us to have an approach to society where we are committed to transformation without putting pressure on ourselves to usher in the ultimate triumph.

“This does not mean we have no contribution to make to history, but it helps us temper our expectations with humility. . . . The road to change tends to be longer than we expect and may often take detours we never anticipated. . . .

Humility does not mean our actions are insignificant but rather that they can never be regarded as the ultimate acts of history that fix the deepest problems of the world.”

As we take this long view, Bacote reminds us that “suffering is a normal part of engagement in public responsibility.” We will be changed in the process. He labels this “cruciform transformation.”

To bear the cross is not to suggest that we are always defeated but that we may indeed encounter great anguish as we pursue a better world. . . .

“If we consider the kind of suffering that many people experience around the world when they pursue a more equal or just society, we quickly become aware that there is often a heavy price to be paid for social transformation. . . .

“The contribution of a cruciform-transformation perspective is that it can help us to be courageous and realistic as we seek to honor God by remaining faithful to the task of public engagement. Those who travel the winding road of change in society may also have to stop at clinics and hospitals to have their wounds washed and bound, and others may need to talk with someone to help them process horrors they encounter on the way. But they stay on the path toward transformation.”

Facing reality can be difficult, but we either do it or we seek escape in some hurtful fashion. As we embark on influencing our culture for Christ it will be wise to remember Bacote’s call for us to remember  lament, humility, and a cruciform perspective. And, in God’s strength, may we not grow weary in well doing.

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