Last night before falling asleep I was thinking about the folks I speak to about Jesus. The folks that I might invite to a church gathering. I found myself rolling with answers and thought process. Perhaps some of it was triggered by a few conversations yesterday.
The day after Christmas is one of my brother’s birthdays. Boy, if you are thinking of having a “winter” kid, Christmas Day rather than the day after is probably better for the child! So yesterday I got to call him. My brother has been hurt by the church so those conversations always are a little “fun”. We reminisced. I joked with him about his new girlfriend. I kidded him about 13th step programs where older men or women ask out new vulnerable folks. We talked a while and he shared about someone I knew. A “14th stepper” he called them. A person who thinks they are so good they can judge everybody. Door opens, grace enters! A good conversation.
I also went shopping. 3 stores-3 people. The first store was fun. The cashier was bubbly and I had direct eye contact with her. I left her with a word. As I walked out I saw the reflection in the door. Head in her hands the other cashiers moved to her. Yep, they would have an interesting night! At the second store, the young woman wanted to go home. Again, I left her with a “present”. The third store was an older woman. Pain etched her face and controlled her eyes. I saw clearly her recent past. Sometimes you just need to be real with folks.
It is funny I thought. Over the years a Jesus not shown in the scriptures has been brought to church each week, carried to stores and workplaces, with satirical fashion. Empty of grace or love and unwilling to forgive. That is our “show”. Let me be blunt when I say that was me quite a few years ago. I am not proud or happy about it. Those 4 conversations of yesterday might have been different had these folks not seen the “horror” show so many presented.
I pondered that last night.
For those not in the faith or believers in Christ, I offer a question to you. I get you might have been hurt, abused or ditched by “Christians”. But, at what point (If there is a point.)do you decide life might be different? My last year in taking some classes revealed to me a different class room mentality than what I saw in say, 1st grade. What I remembered about school was different. Now if you want to blame everyone for your bad behavior, misfortune and difficulties, that is your deal. I get it. Really I do. (And before you “think” I might not understand, ask me all the “hard” questions over coffee. You might be amazed at how I got here. It was NOT all peaches and cream.) So, if you want to diss the church, remember you might be dissing a child or a friend. The church is NOT a building but a group of people. If you do not want to be lumped into a category for a lifestyle do not do it to me, please.
I would make this challenge. Would you be willing to forgive people? And if your answer is no, I get that too. Life is often hard and dumb people make it harder. But…not everyone is like that. Nor is that a proper representation of Christ and His love for you. Can I challenge your thinking? Do you have more than one friend? If you do, you would have to agree they do not always agree on everything with you or each other. So my question is why do you only accept one presentation about God?
Many years ago as my theology began to shift and things I believed began to change, while others things I had not believed began to enter my life, I found myself in a quandary. What do I tell people? Its like being a life long “Red Sox” fan and one day waking up to find you are in love with the Yankees! How do you tell people? Do you tell people? What do you tell people? “I used to believe this and now I don’t.” A few of those and you find yourself looking for a better way. My metamorphosis left me with out a number of friends. Over the years I have received angry letters and returned gifts. Crazy texts and Facebook messages. People left me because of my thinking.
Maybe your theology has take an shift. Do others know that?
I shared some of those changes with my children. Wow, they were my roughest. One of my children was angry, another bewildered. I found new meaning to the words “be humble and swallow your pride”. As I changed thinking over end times and grace and other topics, it became harder rather than easier. As my theological pendulum swung I found myself struggling. Instead of acceptance I found more anger, more resistance.
Funny (Not really.) how the church can be your hardest critic.
If one thing came out of this shifting thought process it was the need to swallow my pride. No longer was I okay with things I might have believed. As I meditated on it last night, I thought it is not the message of God that causes so many failures and creates an us vs. Them, but probably the pride that “we have something you don’t”. I find myself biting my tongue a lot more. Gaining a new found appreciation for patience. An increased value for humility.
And while I mentioned the Red Sox scenario, I think that our understanding of the word of God does change. Our appreciation for His love and a gratitude for His grace grows. Ironically we all played for a team that was lost in our stuff. Destined for the bottom and not the top. Our simple choice to accept Him does not bring greater value to the “team” but in fact for the Owner, Jesus Himself.
I am not really sure how to close this. I guess it begins with “I am sorry”. Sorry, that you might have found the church unloving or unfeeling. (I would simply suggest that what you encountered is but a snapshot of His children and not the Father. Sometimes you have ugly or awkward “family” photos.) That you might have found it arrogant or prideful, unbending or spiteful. I would simply submit to you that is not our Father in heaven.
And if you are the church and you find it difficult to major on the majors like love, grace and goodness, I would ask you to reconsider your position. I am not asking you to turn in your “get out of jail” card, but I am asking you why you need it? Do you find it easy to denigrate and to be rude to others over your knowledge? You missed God’s desire for you and for them!
True humility is not lowering yourself, but making God bigger than everything else.
And that folks… is a wrap!