This is my column in this weeks SC Baptist Courier.  The link isn’t up yet online, but it’s in the print version.

Didn't sing Kum ba ya even once!

Didn't sing Kum ba ya even once!

Most of us spend our time dealing with the consequences of life on this planet. I practice emergency medicine, so I’m busy treating chest pain, closing wounds, opening abscesses, dealing with car crashes, violence, overdoses and all the rest. Attorneys occupy themselves attempting to ensure justice, keeping humans from taking unfair advantage of one another, and trying to see that evil has an earthly consequence.

Builders make shelter for us, because it is difficult and unpleasant to spend all of one’s time outside. Businessmen make and sell products that we need, because all of our needs are not instantly met in this life. Teachers open our minds and hearts because we do not know all that we need to know, simply by virtue of our birth.

Soldiers defend us, politicians lead us, scientists try to improve life. Farmers and cooks feed us, because we are beset by hunger and weakness. Entertainers try to distract us from our suffering, authors and poets, painters and musicians try to explain it so that even if we find life unbearable, we do not find it unbearable alone. And undertakers bury us for the simple (and strangely unquestioned) fact that we all die.

Each of us is struggling, working, raising families with uncertain futures, and trying to bring some order, some hope, some good to all of the bad. Let’s break it down further, to its essence. Each of us lives in a fallen world, in a fallen universe. We are separated from God, who intended good, and order and joy. And even when we are believers, we must accept the current nature of the world and pass through life to our home on the other side.

Consequently, when we work, when we live, we struggle against cosmic consequences. Death, frailty, evil, lies, abuse, misuse are all around; any good we experience comes only from God’s grace.

Our battle is against sin, the flesh and the devil. Those things lie at the essence of what we do, whatever we do, if we believe what the scriptures say. Which brings me, of all things, to SummerSalt, the church camp of the South Carolina Southern Baptist Association. I was there as a chaperone for one week this summer. This was my second visit to SummerSalt. And this year, just like last time, I was stricken by the passion, love and committment of the young women and men who were working as counselors.

Why do I think of them? It would be easy to dismiss them, in light of all the suffering in the world, all the work to be done. ‘They’re just counselors at church camp!’ But the truth is, they have chosen to put the Gospel first; they are a holy priesthood in a generation which scoffs at any meaning, even at the idea of God Himself. They are mostly students; not yet fully engaged in what we think of as ‘the real world.’ And yet, aren’t they?

What those counselors are doing is fighting the battle for the heart. At camp, they are trying to reach other young people to rescue them from sin. Therefore, they are joyfully treating the root cause of the problems that engage all the rest of us in our ‘grown-up, real-world’ lives.

During the four weeks of that camp, those counselors teach, engage, entertain, love, hug and encourage hundreds of middle and high school students. They do it for Jesus; for the outpouring of love from their own hearts. They are soldiers in the battle for souls; workers trying to reap a great harvest.

They know that beyond all priorities we create, one supercedes the rest. The redemption of fallen man by loving God is the work which must come first. At camp, the sons and daughters who arrive, struggling in school, struggling with family, uncertain of their own worth, fighting addiction or promiscuity, abuse or depression, can learn that Christ delivers them, not just from sin with a small s, but from Sin with a big S; from their inherent, fallen, broken natures. That’s what the counselors are doing. Showing other young people the way out of their brokenness and into the wholeness offered by Christ.

Each of those counselors may have many and varied jobs and careers. But on that great day before the throne, it may turn out that their most important work was accomplished at White Oak Conference Center, when a lost young person found the way home.

That’s work that counts.

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