Summary: God calls us to follow the example He set in loving the world, not simply reproaching it; and it loving it with self-giving and the intent to redeem.
Initially preached at Central Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, June 9, 1968; subsequently, with minor variations, at Capton Baptist Church, Campton, KY, August 18, 1968; Reid Village Baptist Church, Mt. Sterling, KY, March 1, 1970; Campbellsville BSU Retreat, Sept. 1970; Berea BSU Missions Banquet, Jan. 15, 1971; University of Kentucky BSU, Jan. 19, 1971; Maryland BSU Spring Retreat, April 24, 1971; First Baptist Church, Laurel, MD, April 25, 1971; Kensington Baptist Church, Kensington, MD, May 2, 1971; North Henderson Baptist Church, Henderson, NC, May 9, 1971; First Baptist Church, Hyattsville, MD, May 16, 1971; Beltsville Baptist Church, May 30, 1971; First Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, May 30, 1971; Hillandale Baptist Church, Adelphi, MD, June 13, 1971; Twinbrook Baptist Church, Rockville, MD July 11, 1971; Luther Rice Memorial Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, August 13, 1972; Calverton Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, Dec. 3, 1972; Greenbelt Baptist Church, Greenbelt, MD, Nov. 18, 1973; Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, DC, April 20, 1975; Carrollan Woods Baptist Church, New Carrollton, MD, May 4, 1975; Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, June 23, 1985.
In his novel, The Fall, the French writer Albert Camus tells a revealing parable about two strangers walking together one night on the streets of Amsterdam. Their footsteps led them by and by to a bridge crosslng one of the many waterways that lace that city, and at the abutment of the bridge the conversation of the two is abruptly cut short. One of them stops, turns to the other, and says, "I'll leave you near this bridge. I never cross a bridge at night. It's the result of a vow. Suppose, after all, that someone should jump in the water. One of two things: either you do likewise to fish him out and, in cold weather, you run a great risk. Or you forsake him there, and suppressed dives sometimes leave one strangely aching. Good night."
Suppressed dives leave one strangely aching. Can it be that this is not only a parable of modern man in general, but that this is also a picture of the church? Can it be that Camus' poignant stranger is no stranger at all, but is one whom we know quite well? Can he be ourselves? Can it be that the church, the people of God, has in the Twentieth Century arrived at the bridge that leads from mere piety and mindless jargon and from otherworldliness, leading to relevance and involvement, but that at that crucial spot we have turned back? Can it not be that we too in the church feel often a strange aching, a longing, a desperate feeling that we are not having the influence and the relevance we ought to have; and can it not be also that that strange aching has to do with some suppressed dives? We have not dived full force into the world, with all its risks, for we might lose ourselves in the process. We are not taking the bridge, we are suppressing our instinct to plunge and help and save. And so we ache; much more, we anguish when men today wave their fists at the church and insist that Christians have nothing to say to the present crisis.
You see, what I am saying is that we know who we are, we know that we are God's chosen people, we know that we are here to be instruments of healing in a broken and sick world, and yet we are not acting upon our knowledge. We are not discharging our responsibilities; we are not being ministers of reconciliation to a world where men hate and fight and kill.
Why is this so? Why is it that we of the church have still not found our way into creative ministry to a needy world? Why has the Great Commission become so vague and so ethereal that it not longer stirs us into vital involvement? Deeper yet, why doesn't our practice of the Christian faith cost us something, why doesn't it get us into trouble? Where is the old revolutionary spirit which once was said to have turned the whole world upside down?
There are, I suppose, as many answers as there are Christians. Each of us has made his own private compromises, each of us has managed to wriggle out of the youthful idealism that once gripped him. But there is one reason in particular that seems meaningful to me; there is one outstanding reason why we fail to minister to the world, and that is that we are afraid of it! We are scared to become prophetically involved.
You see, you and I are the children of a religious tradition which has told us to shun the world. It has said to us, "Be careful of the world; stay away from it as much as possible. Ask the world only for food, shelter, and clothing; for the rest remain uncommitted.” Always there have been Christians who felt that the only way to remain Christian was to fear and to fell the world.