Sometimes, when I get a little overwhelmed with the happenings in the world, my little blog seems so insignificant that I feel unable to write about the day to day happenings in my life until I come to terms with the big things that are on my mind, and either write about them, or move on.
Since the issue heavy on my heart at the moment involves religion, I’ve been trying to move on without writing about it, and I’ve tried coming up with the words that will say what I need to say without being offensive. But it hasn’t been working. I am sad to say that I have lost “Christian” friends because of my political views so I have TRIED (without much success) to avoid the issue.
Then this morning, the perfect words came across my newsfeed (Facebook can be SO much more than sharing silly videos and recipes, if we let it!)
The issue? How Christians are acting, particularly as it has to do with politics, but really it is so much more. It’s how we Christians are presenting ourselves to the world. I have written both on my FB wall, and on many other blogs about how sad I think we are making our Lord with the way we are treating his other children. I just haven’t been very eloquent. But these words? They ARE eloquent. They brought me to tears.
My Dear Children,
I’ve seen what’s been going on there lately. Actually, I’ve been watching you all along and I really need to let you know something, just in case you misunderstand:
This isn’t what I had planned.
This wasn’t the Church I set the table for.
It wasn’t the dream I had for you, when I spoke in those parables about the Kingdom; about my Kingdom.
It was all supposed to be so very different.
It was supposed to be a pervasive, beautiful, relentless “yeast in the dough” that permeated the planet; an unstoppable virus of compassion and mercy spread person-to-person, not needing government or law or force.
It was supposed to be that smallest, seemingly most insignificant of seeds, exploding steadily and gloriously with the realized potential of my sacred presence, becoming a place of safety and shelter for all people.
It was supposed to be something so very precious, such an obvious, invaluable treasure, that it would make all those who discovered and experienced it, feel like it was worth selling everything they had to hold onto it.
It was supposed my very body, here in your very flesh.
You were designed to do this, to be this.
My kindness, my goodness, my forgiveness; you were created to be the method of transportation for all of it.
You were made to deliver the greatest good news to a world so desperate for it.
This wild, extravagant, world-altering love I have for my people, was intended to travel from my aching heart, through your trembling hands, to my hurting people.
This has always been your calling. It has always been your purpose.
It still is. This very second it is.
I have placed you here at this exact place and time in the history of creation, not to defend me, as I need no defense; not to protect me, since I have already willingly laid my life down; not to judge others on my behalf, as this is far beyond your capacity and my instruction.
My beloved, I placed you here, not to defend or protect or replace me, but simply to reflect me.
That has always been my most critical commandment and your most pressing obligation; loving God and loving others. I thought that I was clear on that, when I was asked this before.
I showed you how to move in this world.
I kept company with priests and with prostitutes. I touched lepers and washed feet and dined with sinners, both notorious and covert. I served miraculous free meals to starving masses, and I allowed myself to be touched and kissed and betrayed and slandered and beaten and murdered… and I never protested.
All that is happening these days, all the posturing and the debating and the protesting; does this really look like love to you?
Do you really think that the grandstanding and the insult-slinging and the side-choosing, that it feels like me?
Do you truly believe that the result of your labors here in these days, is a Church that clearly perpetuates my character in the world?
Is this the Gospel I entrusted you with?
To be honest with you, I simply don’t see it.
How did you drift so far from the mission?
How did you become so angry, so combative, so petty, so arrogant, so entitled?
When did you begin writing your own script for this story?
When did you turn it into your story?
My children, here’s what you may not realize, being as close as you are to all of this. You may not be able to see it clearly anymore.
You certainly don’t have the perspective that I do, and here from my vantage point, this is what I do see:
You are driving people from me.
You have become an unbreachable barrier between myself and those who most need me.
You are leaving a legacy of damage and pain and isolation in your path.
You are testifying loudly, not to my love, but to your preference.
You are winning these little violent battles, and you are losing people; not to Hell or to Sin, but to all of the places outside of you, where they go to receive the kindness and decency and goodness that you should be showing them.
This life is not about your right to refuse anyone. If I wanted to avoid serving those I found moral faults with, I would have skipped the planet altogether.
I came to serve.
Your faith in me, cannot be an escape clause to avoid imitating me.
Asserting your rights, was never greater than following my example.
Your religious freedom, never more important than loving the least.
Your central cause, should be relentlessly conforming to my likeness, despite the inconvenience and discomfort that it brings.
When I commanded you to deny yourself, I was speaking about the times when it is most difficult to do so, because that is when “self” is the most distracting, the most dangerous, the most like an idol.
Obedience to me, usually comes with sacrifice to you.
I can’t force you to reflect upon these words, and I can’t make you live as I lived or love as I love. This was never the way I worked or will ever work.
I can only tell you that you have surely drifted from the course I started you on, and as often is the case in long journeys, it is a divergence that unfolds by the smallest of degrees, almost imperceptible while it’s happening.
That is why what feels like victory to you, is really another slight but definite movement away from me, and from the reason you are really here at all.
Not long after I walked the planet, as my Church was just beginning to blossom and my Kingdom was truly breaking out, a Greek statesman named Aristides, wrote these words about those who bore my name then:
“It is the Christians, O Emperor, who have sought and found the truth, for they acknowledge God. They do not keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them. They do not covet what belongs to others. They show love to their neighbours. They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies.
They live in the awareness of their smallness.
Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing. If they see a travelling stranger, they bring him under their roof. They rejoice over him as over a real brother, for they do not call one another brothers after the flesh, but they know they are brothers in the Spirit and in God. If they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed for the sake of Christ, they take care of all his needs. If possible they set him free. If anyone among them is poor or comes into want while they themselves have nothing to spare, they fast two or three days for him. In this way they can supply any poor man with the food he needs. This, O Emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians, and this is their manner of life.”
– Aristides, 137 AD
To the Christians in Indiana, and those beyond who are still listening today; you would do well to hold these words up daily as a mirror to your individual lives, and to the expression of me that you make together in this place.
Is this what you see when you look at yourself?
Is this what the world sees when it looks at you?
In your words and in your ways, Church; do they see me?
If not, then regardless of how it seems to you, you haven’t won anything.
May this be truth, that truly sets you free.
This CONCEPT is what has been going through my mind for the longest time. I am SOOO not either a perfect person or a perfect Christian, so I am not setting myself up as either. I know I have areas in which I need a lot of improvement, and I’m trying. But I have felt like all the divisions in the country are not being handled in a Christian way. Neither our Christian leaders in the Church, or Christian politicians, or even the Christians commenting on blogs have been keeping in mind WWJD. I regularly receive messages both on my FB wall, and in my inbox that make me cringe at their ugliness. Because I KNOW in my heart, Jesus would not respond to ANYONE with hate and exclusion. He would let his kindness speak for Him. Jesus did not come to this earth and FORCE His people to follow Him. He exuded such a light of goodness and kindness and love that people WANTED to follow Him. And he left us in charge of His church – to exude the same goodness, kindness and love, that people would WANT to follow Him, based on what they saw in His people.
Can you honestly say that what is happening right now does that? Why would ANYONE want to be a Christian when they see such hate coming out of the mouths of Christians? Even if you are not one of those spewing hatred, are you sitting silently by and letting the words of others go unchallenged?
We do not need to sit by and watch while things we disagree with go on. But we DO need to think about HOW we disagree. The viciousness with which we speak about our president and other elected officials and even our fellow Americans is not Christian.
Our country has always been a melting pot. At one time there were probably more believers than non-believers. But our founding fathers wanted this country to be a beacon for people who wanted to chose how, or even IF, they wished to worship. Freedom OF religion, also means freedom FROM religion. We cannot MAKE anyone believe. They need to be convicted. And they won’t be convicted if we treat them poorly.
“God” was not always mentioned on our money, or in the Pledge of Allegiance, and there was a reason for that. We are a country that was meant to include everyone – believers and non-believers alike. We have lost sight of that, trying to meld church and state, in direct opposition to what our founders wanted.
This government CAN function. But we have to put away the religious litmus test in order for that to happen, and just treat each other as we’ve been commanded. THAT’S how we improve the country. Not by becoming the American Taliban.