My heart aches after seeing events this past weekend and the words that have followed. This hate, fighting, and venom remind me of the words the drove me away from you 14 years ago.
When I was 18 years old, I walked away from you, Church. You don’t remember our break-up, but I know the people closest to me do. I was baptized within your walls as a child and I loved God with all my heart, but I had poor experiences with your people. Your people told me I was not enough. They told me that God would never use someone like me, and they told me I was an embarrassment to Christianity. My parents are amazing people, but I assumed they only loved me because they were my parents. I assumed these leaders within the Church who spoke these words to me must be correct because they had teaching platforms and power. They were my professors, so why would they say it if it wasn’t true?
Church, I can deduce from the passionate tone in your speaking and writing over this past week that you believe your every word to be true, but in all your arguing, belittling, mocking, and goading, I am struggling to find the love I have read about in Scripture.
Let me be clear, Church, the purpose of this letter is not to address doctrinal differences. I wholeheartedly believe that people can have differing views and be friends, be respectful, and learn from one another. Church, I respect your decision to live out doctrines that vary from building to building. There are many believers whose practice of Scripture is different from my own and I love to learn from them. I believe we can always be learning from one another and I especially believe in the discipline of learning from people who are different from you.
Rather, I want to address the importance of representing Jesus well to the world around us. All Christ followers, men and women alike, share a responsibility to reflect Jesus to the world. Jesus absolutely spoke Truth in the world and rebuked people when he felt it was necessary, but he was also willing to lay his life down and die for the very people he rebuked. To that end, Church, I pose the question: are you willing to lay down your life for people who do not think like you?
When Jesus walked into the Temple and flipped tables, he did so with a desire to call out Truth and see the Church become an honest reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Jesus did not jab an elbow into Peter’s rib and behave in a way that communicated, “Hey, Peter! Watch this. Let’s see how riled up we can get ’em today!” then walk into the Temple grounds. Jesus didn’t flip tables to draw a reaction, he flipped tables to draw attention to the misuse of power. To this I ask: are you willing to lay down your desire to speak your mind to pursue a desire to disperse your power?
Jesus also engaged in conversation with those he was challenging. When Satan tempted Jesus in the Wilderness, Jesus only addressed Satan. When the Pharisees were speaking and behaving in ways dishonoring to God, Jesus directly challenged them in person. When the disciples were arguing amongst themselves, Jesus spoke to them personally. Jesus did not slander people’s names, character, and ministry, and he always offered a relationship with himself any time he issued a rebuke. Jesus engaged in relationship and conversation with people when he felt change was needed. Jesus also outlined very clearly in Matthew 18 the proper way to address an issue amongst believers. To this I would like to inquire: is your desire reconciliation amongst the Church or is your desire to be right?
Five years ago, God led my husband and I on the journey of church planting. As our family pursued this, my husband spoke often about how he saw God crossing social, economic, and cultural divides in an effort to unite, renew, and restore communities. The Church and our world are so hostile and divided; this vision to bring our city, churches, and world together was like a healing balm to my soul.
Church, your words and actions toward one another this past week have been reckless venom, pouring poison into the in the already gaping wounds of the world.
My husband and I have spent 10 years, a full decade, working to show our community that the Church can be united, that Scripture does value all people, and that it really is possible for people with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds to sit in the same room and be kind. In fact, this past weekend, the very moment that some members of the Church were gathered for one conference where venom was dished out and laughed over, others were gathered for a conference in our city centering on the topic of Kingdom Diversity. While some were dismissing the ministry of others, we were discussing how to lay down power and privilege to honor the image of God in all people.
How can one body be so divided?
Jesus deserves a better representation than what we have given him.
People far from Jesus deserve a better witness than what we have given them.
Men deserve a better example than what we have given them.
Women deserve more respect than what we have given them.
Minorities deserve more positions than what we gave given them.
Victims deserve more listening than what we have given them.
And, to be clear, I place this challenge on all of us who claim to be followers of Christ. Collectively, we can do better and we must do better.
Church, I forgive you. I believe that your heart is good. I weep for you and those who have been hurt. I pray deeply that people would not dismiss you because of this tumultuous week and would understand that you still have good to offer. Lastly, I thank you, because now more than ever I believe in the call God has placed on my life to unite his people.
And, to anyone reading this with a shattered heart, please do not hold the sins of broken people as equal with the character of God.