In the 1960s, Marvin Gaye sang out, “Mother, mother, too many of you crying, and brother, brother far too many of you dying.”
Gaye’s Grammy-winning composition, “What’s Going On?” spoke of an age of riots, poverty and joblessness. The U.S. was at war in Vietnam. The Black Panthers threatened the peace with their “Black Power” chants. Have things changed?
We are at war in Afghanistan. There is poverty and joblessness, and courts and boardrooms have become modern battle grounds. According to Matthew (3:3), John the Baptist would today quote the prophet Isaiah (40:3) in his effort to comfort God’s people.
Both Isaiah and John were the “Voice(s) crying out in the desert to prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.” John shouted, “Repent! Repent!” when he came to the city to preach after living in the desert of Judea. We need to hear John’s refrain today: “Repent! Repent!”
John the Baptist was unpopular in his own time, a disappointment befalling many true preachers. John was tasked with denouncing the Herods (political leaders) and the Pharisees (religious leaders) of the time. John’s strong words were daring and dangerous, aimed at capturing the crowd’s attention, never in retreat from challenging issues.
At all times, John sought out “What’s going on?” His simple and powerful message conveyed change, and reminded his listeners that the one who was forthcoming, Jesus Christ, would make a difference. Today we ask, “What’s Going On?” while we still sin, stand in need of repentance, and seek a savior. Acceptance of Christ as savior assumes our adoption of His teachings, practices and theological advice. We must come to see Him as the bridge between God and the Holy Spirit, sent to show us the way home.
We live in a world of greed and unfettered capitalism. Our lack of drilling regulations has given us a polluted Gulf of Mexico. The quest for profits (by Big Oil and Wall Street) has left many jobless and homeless. Now, all of us must scramble to clean up both a ruined environment and a despoiled economy.
In Matthew 3:4, scripture states, “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” John differed from the religious leaders of his day. Many who came to hear him preach were intrigued by a man in animal-skin clothing, but ended by repenting of their sins and being baptized. While many preachers sought public glory, John focused upon winning the praise of God.
Lately, I have gained weight, and have neglected exercising and watching my diet. I reflect upon John, who not only preached God’s law, but lived it. John shunned concern about his clothing and avoided the rich diet that could lead to diabetes or heart attack.
How many of us practice what we preach? Are we living healthful and unselfish lives that set examples of sacrifice for long-term benefit? Are our daily actions reflective of our beliefs? Can people see Christ in us guiding our daily struggles?
Marvin Gaye also sang, “Father, Father we don’t need to escalate, war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate.” Can people see God’s love in your life? Can they see your personal effort to remedy “What’s Going on?”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.