At a time like this

Published 11:49 am Saturday, July 19, 2014

by Andrew Book

World news can be depressing. Whether you get your news through the newspaper, evening news or online, world news tends to be dominated by headlines of the terrible things happening around the world. As many of you are aware, current headlines include the renewed violence between Israel and Palestine in Gaza, the ongoing civil war in Syria, the ISIS offensive in Iraq, and the immigration crisis of unaccompanied minors along the U.S./Mexican border.

These four situations are especially hot topics for debate around the country right now. Should our government continue our support for Israel? Should we provide weapons for the insurgents in Syria? Should American troops or planes assist the Iraqi government? How do we respond to the immigration crisis?

Just about anywhere you turn, you will find people who have an opinion (sometimes a strong opinion) about how our government should be responding. Whether you look at cable news, or the conversations going on through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site, you will find endless debate about what our government should be doing, shouldn’t be doing or what we did wrong in the past.

The problem with our endless debate is that for many of us, it has taken the place of actually doing something. Instead of finding ways to help the millions of refugees who have fled from the fighting in Syria, we talk about whether our elected officials are doing the right thing in staying out of the conflict. Instead of praying for peace in Israel, we debate who is at fault for the fighting. Instead of giving to organizations helping those injured in the fighting in Iraq, we focus on who to blame for the state of affairs in Iraq. Finally, instead of working for peace in those parts of Central America which are so dangerous that parents are sending their children away alone on a glimmer of hope that they might reach this country, we debate different solutions to our immigration policy.

Debate over government policy has become such a dominant theme in society that it has taken the place of action and giving, and the ones who have suffered are those most in need. Here’s one example: Lebanon was a country of around 4 million people before the war began in Syria. In the course of the fighting, over a million Syrians have fled into Lebanon. The equivalent would be 2,000 people showing up in Franklin with little more than the clothes on their backs and hungry stomachs.

You can imagine the challenge of finding shelter, food, water, toilets, clothes, and medical care for that many people! Despite this huge influx of refugees, Lebanon has received less than one-third of the money they need to care for those in need.

While we spend our time debating government policy, people are dying.

On a local level, we see the same challenges. We are much more likely to spend our time debating the government’s food stamp policy than volunteering at the food bank. We are much more inclined to debate public housing than to spend our weekend volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to build someone a home. We like to talk, but we live in a world that is dying for people who will act!

My challenge for you is to rethink how you are going to engage the issues. We need to be people who act. We need to be people who give. We need to be people who recognize that at a time like this, each one of us has a part to play in caring for the vulnerable around us.

This week at Courtland United Methodist Church, we will be talking about the last of my First Words: Embody. We serve a God who entered the pain and struggle of this world and showed us that we cannot just love from a distance. We are called to embody love to those around us. Whether you join us on Sunday as we worship or spend your morning elsewhere, I pray that you will take the words of the apostle John to heart: “…let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth” (1 John 3:18).

Note: If you are going to give to an international aid organization, please research the organization to ensure your money is truly going to the cause you are giving it for! I recommend giving through the United Methodist Committee on Relief ( because 100 percent of your gift will go to the cause.

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or