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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Year of Lament, Part 3

image from eszter dobay
Monday, February 16, 2015
Dear one, if you are in a season of healing, then let God heal you.  He can be found anywhere.  He certainly isn't contained within a building, for the love.  If you need to rest, rest.  But maybe one day when you're ready, you can try again.  There is a safe faith community for you.  This I know.  It exists.  It may be some teeny, tiny little place.  It may be some big, fancy loud place.  It may be with the Episcopalians or with a home church.  Who knows? 
And you are an important part of it.  It's not just that you will receive.  You will give too.  We need you.  You bring something special and important to the body and don't forget it.  God heals all of us through each other.  It's this crazy weird miracle... 
You are so loved and precious.  God can bind up even the worst wounds.  And His people can be so beautiful, so loving, so healing.  I pray you find them, in whatever context, wherever you are, exactly as you are. 
-Jen Hatmaker
In today's headlines is a story of ISIS beheading 21 Christian Egyptian men.  And I wonder as I read about such things how the hell the church continues to fire shots at its own.  I've just watched as way too many people have become collateral damage, left broken along the side of the road, over the past year in a quest for "truth," for the sake of pet doctrines that betray our prideful self-righteousness, for the ability to move forward with organized institutions without the inconvenience of working through tough spots.

And I'm weary of the casualties.  I'm weary of those who are doing the wounding going uncontested.  I'm weary of our insistence upon neatness, upon homogeneity.  I'm weary of having a heart that constantly feels stuck in tension, torn between different directions.  I'm weary of organizations taking precedence over individual lives.  I'm weary of doctrines and structures being given priority over LOVE.

My heart is tired.  I'm tired.  I'm tired of feeling jaded and cynical.  I'm tired of every flame of hope that gets kindled in my heart being inevitably doused with another ousting, another proclamation of error in the lives of others.

Jesus came seeking those who lived life on the fringes.  He offered an easy yoke and a light burden.  He proclaimed freedom and life.  He spoke and dined with those with whom it was taboo to speak and dine.  Aching, broken outcasts were drawn to Him.

How did we, His people, become those doing the casting out, causing the ache, creating the brokenness?

I ran across an article recently chastising those who criticize the modern American evangelical church because, since the Church is Christ's bride, it ought to be loved.  It's not the first time I've heard such an argument, and it's not without some merit, yet I wonder how we can make such a blanket statement when a large portion of the Old Testament is devoted to the voices of prophets who spent their lives calling Israel -- God's chosen people -- out for how they had strayed from His design.  The prophets didn't call them out for not being religious enough -- on the contrary, it was noted repeatedly that they did well with all their religious rituals.  What was sorely lacking was love:  love for God in the form of an actual active relationship and heart connection, and love for fellow man in the form of justice and mercy.

In the present-day representation of God's people in the Church, we may think we've got the "loving God" part down, but throughout Scripture it is made clear that one cannot love God without loving his fellow man.  We're told that mercy is better than sacrifice.  If the nation of Israel was repeatedly rebuked for lacking love and mercy, how much more so ought we to be -- we who claim to follow Jesus, lover of the sinner and outcast, not only in word but in DEED as He took part in their lives?

If there's one thing I've come to believe as I continue to grieve the lack of sacrificial love I see in the Church, it's that the prophets' hearts were constantly wracked with grief for the very people to whom they preached.  It is joyless to watch the ship that was sent to rescue people sink because of its own passengers' volatile determination to shape the vessel into their own images.

Sometimes I feel like I can't stand one more day in the machine that's flattening people as fast as -- or faster than -- it's setting anyone free.  I don't want to be implicated any longer in the choices that are leaving people bloodied on the side of the road...

In contrast to my pain and frustration and grief, thank You, Jesus, for the fresh, springlike air that fills this unseasonably warm February afternoon.  Thank You for people who love me, for people who understand me, and for people who don't understand me but love me anyway.  Please help me to love well and to be a conduit of healing, not hurt; of life, not death; of freedom, not chains.

Read here the Introduction, Part 1, and Part 2.

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