Editorials - Word&Way



Brian KaylorAbout the Editor

Brian Kaylor started as the ninth editor of Word&Way in December of 2016. An award-winning journalist and author, he has written four books and worked for several Baptist ministries.

Imagine a world where Christians — both those running for office and those just planning to vote — actually applied the Golden Rule. With that goal in mind, Baptist and other denominational leaders are calling for Christians to act Christlike, even in political conversations.

There’s a fascinating, oft - overlooked parable in Judges 9. It might be one of the most profound teachings about political power and who we trust to rule found in the scriptures.

When Zacchaeus met Jesus and recognized his sins, he did more than say a prayer. And a critical part of that story is the financial payments. But are we unwilling to let a Zacchaeus walk such a path of redemption?

We saw a prophetic example earlier this week at the United Nations. And like many of the Old Testament prophets, this modern one did not come from a prominent position of power. But God doesn’t usually speak through the powerful.

We really are living in a more profane age. And it’s not just the four-letter words or the using of God’s name in vain. The Bible clearly teaches us that our words matter.

Last week, Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey apologized for performing in blackface 52 years ago while a college student at a BSU party, an incident she couldn't recall. If, like Ivey, we can’t remember what our Baptist churches and institutions did in the past, how can we really improve things today?

As Christians, we are to be people of the Truth. We are to people who speak truthfully, who bear truthful witness about neighbors. And part of that requires us to be willing to call a thing a thing, to call racism racism.

Around significant anniversaries, churches will often produce a write-up of their history. But what if we’ve left out some important details? Does your church need to reconsider the ugly parts of our history we may have left out?

We are a nation led by people crossing by on the other side of the road. As Jesus explained what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself,” he told a parable in Luke 10 about a man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. First a priest and then a Levite showed up, but once they saw the man they crossed by on the other side. That is, they decided to leave the man to die. But perhaps they offered their ‘thoughts and prayers’ as they crossed by. [caption id="attachment_55768" align="alignleft" width="180"] Brian Kaylor[/caption] Had a third man — a Samaritan — not shown up and rescued the beaten man, the priest and Levite would have shared some of the responsibility for the man’s death. Even the lawyer seeking to justify himself saw which man showed what it means to love one’s neighbor. Can we see it today? Once again, our news tells us of mass shootings. On Aug. 3, a man armed with a semi-automatic assault gun killed 22 people and injured 24 others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just hours later, another man killed nine people and injured 27 others outside a Dayton, Ohio, restaurant in less than a minute with a semi-automatic assault gun. Over the last few years, we’ve seen many similar deadly attacks with assault weapons — at locations including a concert, nightclub, high school, elementary school, synagogue, and church. Basically, there is no place where one is truly safe from guns in America. We are, after all, the nation with the most guns per capita — even more than countries embroiled in war. And, thus, we also have more mass shootings than any other country. States with more guns and fewer gun restrictions generally see more such shootings. We don’t have more mentally-ill people than other countries or more video gamers than other countries or even more evil people than other countries. We have more guns — and we have more people dying from guns. We are literally killing ourselves. Yet, our nation’s political leaders cross by on the other side of the road. Perhaps they cross by because they don’t want to upset voters who are also crossing by. Perhaps they cross by because that other side is where the lobbyists handing out campaign money are standing. Perhaps they cross by because, like the priest and Levite in Jesus’s story, they just don’t care enough for the lives of their fellow humans. [caption id="attachment_60430" align="alignright" width="300"] Shutterstock[/caption] What we need are more people in power who will stop and help, even if it costs them. We need more people willing to take up the prophetic vision of Amos and Isaiah and today beat our guns into garden tools. We need more people to understand the parable of Jesus like Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. explained it in his last sermon before he was shot to death. “It’s possible that these men were afraid,” King said of the priest and Levite. “You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable.’ It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. … And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And, so, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” “That’s the question before you tonight,” King added. “Not, ‘If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?’ The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That’s the question.” And that’s the question facing us today. Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do we care more about Jesus’s second greatest commandment than we do the Second Amendment? Do we care about the lives of others? If we do not stop to help, what will happen? Brian Kaylor is editor & president of Word&Way.

To experience the Bahamas -- where this year's Baptist World Alliance annual meeting was held -- means more than just hanging out on the beach. This is a country, after all, where income inequality means most citizens can’t afford to spend a week at one of the lush resorts on their islands.