Along the Way: Press On!

In my post, “Parting Words & Words of Witness” (now viewed about 8,000 times), I simultaneously made a point and recovered a lesson. The point is in the post itself, and you can read it if you have not already done so. The recovered lesson is what I want to write about in this post.

The lesson is simply this: in every challenging situation we have the choice of how we will use our energy. We can either pushback against the challenge or press on toward the overcoming of it. If we concentrate too much on pushing back, we ironically are taken captive by the situation, becoming part of the problem more than part of the solution. We fulfill the adage, “What gets your attention gets you.” We can become as negative as the negativity we oppose.

Living the Gospel life is pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14), which is summed up as overcoming evil with good—what Richard Rohr calls “the practice of the better.” [1] This does not mean ignoring evil, but it does not mean getting caught up in it. Resistance names evil en route to goodness. In pushing back, we remain stuck in the “tar baby” of evil. In pressing on, we bear witness to the fact that evil does not have the final word.

The emphasis of witness is commending “the more excellent way” (1Corinthians 12:31). Resistance focuses on outcomes—e.g. letting justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24), not the things which prevent it from happening. Resistance is declaring the mission (Luke 4:18-19), not dwelling on why it has been set aside. Resistance confronts the kingdoms of this world by commending the kingdom of God. That is, it keeps the emphasis in the right place. And in doing so we become better, not bitter.

The upcoming separation of the Global Methodist Church from the United Methodist Church is a specific illustration of the general principle. As one who will remain in the UMC, living in pushback says, “Here are the reasons you should not go with the GMC.” Rather than this, pressing on says, “Here are the reasons for staying in the UMC.” Pressing on does not eliminate the necessity of having to choose. In pressing on in the way forward for the UMC, some will still leave us. But in choosing to press on rather than push back, we will be laying the foundation which makes leaving unnecessary and which creates the spiritual health (e.g. the fruit of the Spirit) that’s essential if the future UMC is to be a vital part of the Body of Christ.

[1] I wrote a series of Oboedire posts about this entitled, “Practicing the Better” and a related one on “Nonviolence.”

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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