Acts 16.22-23, 25
The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison… About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
“I have wept over the laxity of the church.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his 1963 Letter From Birmingham Jail. “But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise?”
“There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
“All too many,” observed Dr. King, “have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
“The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.
“I do not say that as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel who loves the church, who was nurtured in its bosom, who has been sustained by its Spiritual blessings, and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
“If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
Father, may your Spirit convict us where Dr. King’s words reveal our complacency. Encourage and strengthen us where we languish because of our faith. It is only by your grace we endure. We long for you.