Commentary
By Joe Kay 12-29-2017

What does the world need in the coming year?

I think it needs more prophets. It needs more voices sharing visions.

Specifically, it needs you and me to be more prophetic.

Prophets aren’t a once-in-a-generation thing — countless ones are present in every generation. People like you and me.

Prophets experience God in deeply personal ways, and those experiences make them grow and help them develop a vision of how the world could be if it followed God’s values. Prophets try to live that vision more fully, to share it readily, and to advocate for it fiercely. They don’t just talk the talk — they walk the walk.

We need more people willing to walk the walk. We need to live and enact God's vision in the world.

Many people in our world follow a different vision: Societies live in fear, selfishness, conflict, division, and injustice. They’re ruled by wealthy, privileged, unscrupulous people looking out for themselves. The needy are spurned, the sick are ignored, the peacemakers are ridiculed.

People get wrapped up in that vision and decide it’s the only way, so they might as well go along with it. But the world desperately needs prophets to provide another vision, to show another way.

Jesus followed the prophetic tradition. He lived and preached the vision of God’s kingdom, a world run by love, healing, and radical equality.

He not only taught this vision, he also enacted it — by making healing everyone who was hurting, feeding anyone who was hungry, forgiving everyone who had caused harm.

He walked into the temple and overturned the money tables in a social, religious, and political protest against that other vision. He gave his life advocating for God’s justice, and he said we must be willing to sacrifice for it as well.

The dream never becomes real without prophetic sacrifice.

Prophets turn the vision into a lens that shows us the world more clearly and inspires us to change and transform it. Their vision isn’t limited to one or two issues — it goes to the heart of everything.

Prophets don’t just challenge and prod us. They also encourage and inspire us. We all need to be encouraged and inspired to keep trying.

And yes, prophets always get a push-back. The powerful, wealthy, and privileged fight to preserve the status quo. It’s always that way. But persistent prophets ultimately lead societies to change for the better.

How do we become more prophetic?

First, we spend time with God each day growing into the vision. Day by day, we see ourselves and our world through God’s eyes a little more clearly.

As we grow into the vision, we commit to advocating for it more passionately. We do it through simple everyday acts of kindness, as well as paying attention to the bigger picture and seeking ways to challenge the inequality and injustice in our world.

We walk the walk. We march in the streets. We write a representative. We advocate for the vision on social media. We become active in movements to bend the moral arc of the universe a little more toward justice.

Respectfully and persistently, we challenge those who advocate for a different vision — war, division, exclusion, privilege, supremacy of the wealthy and powerful.

We also challenge our faith communities to become more prophetic. Many of them will talk the talk, but they’re reluctant to act on those words. We must be prophetic collectively as well as individually.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “So often the church in our struggle had been a taillight rather than a headlight. The church had so often been an echo rather than a voice.”

Let’s resolve in 2018 to be more prophetic, each in our own way. Let’s shine a headlight on where God’s vision wants to take us. Let’s give voice to what the world needs to hear.

Joe Kay

Joe Kay is the associate minister at Nexus United Church of Christ, Butler County, Ohio. He also writes a weekly blog at https://joekay617.wordpress.com. His email address is listed on the blog, in case you care to contact him directly.

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