revjoaquinwillisweb.gifIn addition to stories about Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and “famous” others, CNN produced “God’s Warriors,” a special about how the Evangelical movement is reshaping American history and politics.

God is “Standing in the Shadows” keeping watch over His people, His church and His world.  Since the account of Adam and Eve and man’s fall in Genesis (3:9), God has been asking, “Where are you?”

There is a crippling spirit creeping into the place where the weak gather, praying for healing. 

To many, the church is a soap opera!  Some jokingly label it, “As the Church Turns.”  Stories about God’s people could be called “All My Children,” who are living on “The Edge of Night,” acting like “The Young and the Restless,” constantly in need of a “General Hospital,” for “The Bold and the Beautiful.”  Living through these dramas, we might forget that, “Standing in the Shadows,” is a Loving God keeping watch over His own.

In Luke (13:11), there is an account of Jesus teaching in the synagogue, finding a woman who had been “Crippled by a spirit for eighteen years, and she was bent over and could not straighten up at all.”  At that time, the Pharisees considered healing “work,” a profession unlawful to practice on the Sabbath.   

The Pharisees could not see Jesus’ loving compassion, and hid behind the law to avoid love’s obligations, putting the synagogue first. We still hide behind laws today to shield us from our obligations to help and heal the poor, and to avoid holistically caring for those we are called to love. We forget that God is watching all.

In Jeremiah (1:5), we again hear God’s concern as He tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God knew us long before we were conceived, and planned for us, as He planned for Jesus meeting the crippled woman in need of healing.

Why do we cripples come to church?  In Christ’s time, the synagogue was to have been a counter-culture.  The church is that yet today, as it struggles to serve an ever-increasing number of poor and downtrodden. The needy come to the church daily, seeking healing and financial help.  In a troubled economy, there is less and less to give.  Our Diaconate Boards, praise the Lord, still give whatever we have on hand. 

Recently, a member of our church who lives alone was sent home two days after having surgery to remove both cancerous breasts.  She needed round-the-clock nursing care.  Compassionate church members formed a cadre of volunteers to lovingly care for their sister in need. 

During this Holiday season, we are called to do our best to help others.  We know what God wants us to do, but we may feel afraid or inadequate to take the first step.  We struggle with self-confidence, as did Jeremiah (1:6-8) did when he said, “Lord, I don’t know how to speak, for I am only a child.” God said to him,
“Don’t say that, you must go wherever I command you and don’t be afraid, for I will be with you.”

We, too, like Christ, must believe God is with us, “Standing in the Shadows.”

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at