An Overwhelming, Open Letter

I was going to finish my blog about God using unexpected people to do unexpected things tonight. But I couldn’t. I was going to write about how I struggled today because I missed home so much more than I ever have before even though I’ve been gone way less time than I have before. But, I couldn’t find the words to say because, in this moment, it just all seems so unimportant. In this moment, I am overwhelmed. I’ve cried a lot today, and not only, or even mostly, because of the homesickness.

I feel overwhelmed because the Amazon rainforest is literally burning and no one is saying anything. And no one (including myself) is doing anything. We’re posting it on social media, but no one is DOING ANYTHING. We are killing ourselves and NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING. The planet– this ball we call Earth– is dying. But, the planet itself will survive. The plants, animals, and humans won’t. WE ARE LITERALLY KILLING OURSELVES because we are making stupid choices, not caring, and NOT DOING ANYTHING. (I keep stressing this point and I realize I sound kind of hypocritical because I am not doing anything either. And you would be right. I am not currently doing anything. But, am I researching ways I can do something with the hopes and intention of doing something? You better believe it). I watched the videos, looked at the pictures, read the stories, and cried. Because I feel paralyzed to do anything.

I had a conversation about the Church. And every time I think about the Church, I feel overwhelmed and I kind of want to cry. Because Scripture is so clear, so beautiful, so descriptive of what the Church should be. AND WE’RE NOT THAT. We are so far from that. We have become an institution in which power, money, and status seem to matter more than the gospel. We have strayed from challenging, authentic truth in favor of watered-down sermons which leave us comfortable and un-convicted. We have abandoned love in favor of arguments about theology and worship style and appropriate dress. We no longer care about slow, intentional church planting and costly discipleship; instead we have adopted a fast-paced model that focuses on standardized services and quantity of attenders. We have exchanged being authentic disciples and cultivating genuine community and living out the gospel for attendance records, cliques, and a model of service that includes throwing money at a problem from a distance and turning our eyes away. Somehow, we have strayed so far from the Biblical example of Church to this newfound model that is neither Biblical nor sustainable. I am overwhelmed because I have a call to change this. But as someone who respects Scripture, loves Scripture, studies Scripture, and values it highly, I get frustrated, and sad, and torn. And I know I am not going to stay in church ministry forever, because I know that my gifts and talents can be used more effectively in teaching, writing, and studying. But for the time I am in it, I long so DESPERATELY for a return to the Biblical model. Church is a sacred institution being run by imperfect people, so there is no perfect church. There is so much work to do to get back to Biblical Church. And I can’t do it all. And I don’t even know if anyone else cares enough to want to do it with me. But we as a Church should be better. We NEED to be better.

A friend texted me and asked for resources about homosexuality and the Church, and we started talking about it. And my heart broke again. Because I see a group of people loved deeply by Jesus who so desperately seek the love of Jesus in the Church– who should share with them the love of Jesus– and yet we have abandoned that to argue over who’s right and who’s wrong. We have closed our doors to people we deem as sinful simply because their sin looks different than ours’. And we have made the assumption that their way of life is sinful without even bothering to research, study, and think for ourselves simply because it is what we were taught. People are not only leaving the faith while we stand on the frontlines and push them out, they are taking their own lives because they feel guilty, unloved, and sinful. AND WE ARE LETTING THEM. Not only are we letting them, often we are ENABLING AND CAUSING THEM. Instead of loving them, we are at worst abandoning them and at best disguising our hate as love by ‘hating the sin and loving the sinner.’ “Maybe our God is big enough to love everyone no matter what” my friend said. I cried. Because He is. And He’s bigger than we can understand, and He is impossible to fully comprehend. But, man, is He big enough to love all of us no matter what. And He is understood enough to realize that’s what He wants from us, too. He’s big enough to send His son into the world to be the embodiment of the law, to die for EVERYONE (yes, even those we don’t agree with and don’t like), and to love US. HE IS BIG ENOUGH TO LOVE US. “The Bible is not always super clear,” I said, “sometimes logically, intelligently, credibly, and legitimately, a passage can be read and interpreted different ways. But, if we are to believe that Christ truly is the physical embodiment and fulfillment of the law, then we have to believe the Spirit of that law is love. So, when in doubt err on the side of love.” ERR ON THE SIDE OF LOVE. Because God is love and we are God’s image bearers. And when we argue over theology, or hate people because of their sexual preference, or claim they have to be someone they aren’t before they worship the God of love with us, we are not bearing the image of Love. So, I am overwhelmed tonight.

I don’t swear often. Only when it is necessary and there is no other way to express whatever emotion I am feeling. Not that I have any moral objection to it; that’s not what Scripture really means, and the words are only fillers anyway so who cares what words you use? I just have more of a personal Spirit-guided conviction about it, and I personally feel opposed to it. So, know that when I swear, I mean it with every ounce of my being. But guys, hear me on this: WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING? Is this what being image bearers of God is? Is this the best we can do? Literally watching the world burn as we sit back and study Scriptures about how to be faithful disciples and Christ-followers? Who the heck is going to care about how much Scripture we studied in 10 years if we’re all dead and there’s no planet? And guys, don’t expect that God will just one day take all of us Bible reading, Christ professing, church attending people up to heaven and then burn the Earth and start a new one. Because nowhere in Scripture is that idea ever seen. That is the least Biblical idea. There will be no rapture. There will be no separation of heaven from Earth. In fact, the Bible paints a beautiful picture of heaven meeting Earth, of God’s space becoming one with our space, and of God coming down to dwell among us. But there is no destruction of Earth, there is no rebuilding, there is no starting over. There is only transformation, reconciliation, and perfect restoration. So, if we truly proclaim to be Christ followers and want to be faithful image bearers of God, we must take care of life while we have it– our life, the planet’s life, and the life of every living thing that is on the planet.

“This is all messed up,” I said to my friends over and over. “The Church needs to get it together.” Sure, we are all imperfect beings who have been entrusted to run a sacred institution. But man, have we screwed it up big time. When Church becomes more about what worship music we should use, what we should wear, and how many souls we can “save from hell” by getting them to come to our services than about worship, community, serving others, and GOD, then we are doing something majorly wrong. And when our discipleship is reduced to cute, pithy phrases void of meaning, or when we don’t discuss or attempt to live out their meaning, we have totally missed the point of Matthew 28, and the whole of Scripture. When churches stand by and ignore children being put in cages, families separated at the border, and blacks getting killed just for being black, all the while meeting together in their comfortable and tithing their money to build buildings, pay pastors, and create programs for their own children, and think this is the Biblical model of Church, we as leaders have failed. (And I include myself in that. Because I may not be a “leader” yet. But I will be. And I pray I never allow myself or my congregation to forget Scripture or become stagnant). So, it’s frustrating that we don’t have it together enough to know that we as a Church are called to action, not just words, and that action is not simply financial. Jesus never threw money at a problem. Little children let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.

And guys, WHO DIED AND PUT US IN CHARGE? Because last time I checked, God died and put God in charge. So, can we pause our judgement for a second and remember who this God is who is in charge. The GOD OF THE FREAKING UNIVERSE. And the God of the universe created us BECAUSE OF LOVE. And He died for us OUT OF LOVE. And we are created to be His image bearers IN LOVE. So, can we please remember that everything God does is out of love and He requires us to reciprocate that love. And we aren’t doing that. Not opening our doors, making decisions about who’s allowed in and who’s not, yelling at people who disagree, and judging people who are different than us is not love. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrong. This how we know love. Jesus laid down His life for us and we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

So, I am a little overwhelmed tonight. I have cried more than a few times today. And I am overwhelmed because this world is so broken, so imperfect, so in need of Love. And we are the Church called to be that love. And we have neglected that responsibility. I’m overwhelmed because I wish I could just do it alone. But I can’t because I am not God. But together, we can be faithful image bearers of God. Together, we can be good stewards of God’s creation, be models of a healthy, Biblical Church, and together we can love.

 

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