[This is the latest installment of a column I write for a local chain of suburban Cincinnati newspapers.]
I do a lot of writing. There's this column, for one thing. There are my weekly messages prepared for delivery during our congregation's Sunday worship celebrations. There's a blog (web log) for which I usually compose between two to five entries every day. I also regularly send out emails and notes to people, providing encouragement, information, and, I hope, inspiration.
My writing can be clunky and awkward. But it seems to do what writing is supposed to do, namely, communicate.
Sometimes though, all this writing bothers me. It seems so arrogant, spouting all these opinions and ideas on a hapless world. I ask myself, "Who exactly do you think you are, Mark? Why don't you knock it off?"
One thought usually brings me out of this self-flagellating funk, though. In much of my writing, I try to tell people about the new life that belongs to all who believe in the God-man, Jesus Christ.
These writings come, I believe, from a commission given by Christ to His followers to share His message with the world: All with faith in Jesus have God's free gifts of forgiven sin, everlasting life with God, and lives filled with purpose and joy. Since one of the few skills I have is my ability to write, I use writing to fulfill my commission.
But other things I write are opinions about current events, lessons from history, character sketches, and so on. What justification do I have for all that spouting off?
In his book, How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, Peter Robinson records life lessons he learned from the Gipper while serving as a speech writer in the Reagan Administration. At the beginning of one chapter, Robinson quotes the President's son, Michael, on his most vivid memory of his father. It was from the days before Reagan became governor of California. "When I'd get back from school in the afternoon," Michael Reagan remembers, "I'd toss down my books and go into the master bedroom to say hello. Dad had a big desk in there, and he was always at that desk, writing. Not almost always. Always."
At the time, Reagan was a washed-up Hollywood actor, serving as a spokesman for a large company and writing columns, speeches, and radio talks. He wrote about history and current affairs. Robinson, in fact, calculates that prior to becoming President, Reagan had written more than any other US chief executive, including Woodrow Wilson, a prolific writer.
What were Reagan's qualifications for all this writing? Reagan had been an indifferent graduate of a small midwest college, a sports announcer, movie star, and company shill. He was no expert, just a guy who read voraciously, cared intensely, and had the gumption to share his ideals and beliefs. And it's precisely that sort of reading, interest, and courage that keep the American republic going. America is still the place where an ordinary person can say, "Wait a minute, the experts may be wrong. Here's what I think."
I believe that America's openness to earnest amateurs stems from our faith heritage. Christians contributed this openness to our national DNA. Biblical Christianity isn't hierachical. Pastors and bishops are no better in God's eyes or in the eyes of the Church than believing auto mechanics who teach Sunday School or computer programmers who go on mission trips. Christians differ in function, but not in status. All are children of God who bring something vital to the Church and the world.
The apostle Peter told the ordinary Christians in first-century Asia Minor, "...you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (First Peter 2:9-10)
Who am I to have an opinion, to share it, and even to write about it? I'm a child of God to whom God has given talents, passions, abilities, interests, experiences, and sometimes, a message of hope from God Himself. So are you.